Sunday, January 31, 2021

This Doomsday Clock Says The Time Is--Part I

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Sustainability, Sustainable Development, Pollution

Ed Hessler

The results of the 29th annual "Questionnaire On Environmental Problems and the Survival of Humankind" conducted by the Asahi Glass Foundation were released in September 2020. The respondents are self-selected environmental experts working for national or local governments, NGOs, NPOs, universities and research institutions, corporations, mass media, and so on, worldwide. The respnse rate for the 2020 questionnaire was 6.5% (27,935 questionnaires; 1813 returned).

The feature of this annual report that attracts the most attention is what time it is according to the Environmental Doomsday Clock. This clock is divided into 4 quadrants: 12 to 3  (Okay--barely concerned); 3 to 6 (concerned--slightly concerned); 6 to 9 (worried--fairly concerned); and 9 to 12 (fearful--extremely concerned). 

What time is it in the year 2020? 9:47 (last year it was 9:46).

In 1992, the time was 7:49. The 29th annual respondents 60 or over set the clock at 9:55; those in their 40s and 50s at 9:41; and those in their 20s,30s at 9:45. Regional times--9 regions worldwide--on the clock ranged from 8:34 (Africa) to 10:53 (North America). 

Contents include: a survey interview, summary of questionnaire results + the results, the Environmental Doomsday Clock, environmental issues to be taken into account in responding to questions, awareness of signs of improvement in the approach to environmental issues, closing comment, Data, and the questionnaire as distributed to respondents. There is a discussion of changes in the Environmental Doomsday Clock. I want to comment on two of these.

Environmental issues to be taken into account include climate change; biodiversity; land use; pollution/contamination; water resources; population; food, lifestyle (consumption habits) and Society, Economy and Environment, policies and measures. These are also categorized by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There are 17.

Awareness of signs of improvement in the approach to environmental issues. These are in comparison with before 2015 when both the Paris climate agreement and SDGs were adopted. There are two questions: do you think we are shifting to a decarbonized society and where do you see signs of improvement based on environmental issues to be taken into account. Overall, for both questions a slight uptick. However, there "are not many perceived signs of improvement." These two questions were introduced in 2019. A greater percentage of the respondents in the USA and EU selected 'Public Awareness' as showing signs of improvement, while a greater percentage of the respondents in China selected 'Policies and Legal System; as a category showing signs of improvement."

In closing, the Foundation notes that the "will continue using the questions for a while and continue conducting the survey, paying attention to the average score for the entire world and variances among regions and countries. 

A short summary which covers the main features of the report may be read here. The Canadian Association for the Club of Rome provides details on the Environmental Doomsday Clock results for 2020.  For those interested in complete details, the Asahi Glass Foundation provides annual reports on the surveys and the results from 1992. Here is the questionnaire for the 29th annual survey although it is included in the annual report.                                                                        

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