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Environmental Issues Among Iceland's Top Five Challenges

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Environmental Issues Among Iceland's Top Five Challenges

Mushroom on the Melrakkasletta, Northeast Iceland, July 2014

Photo: Deborah Willott.

Icelanders have become increasingly aware of and concerned about environmental issues since the turn of the century, RÚV reports. For instance, the majority of Icelanders think that the government is not doing enough to limit greenhouse gas emissions in Iceland. Just under 60% of Icelanders are concerned about the effects of climate change, and 87% can envision purchasing an electric or eco-friendly car.

These are some of the findings of an extensive Gallup poll about Icelander’s attitudes towards environmental issues, which have come to the forefront of public discussion in recent years. To wit: only 18% of Icelanders said that they were interested in the environment around the year 2000, whereas 37% say they are interested in it today. And while Icelanders don't generally perceive the environment to be the foremost problem faced by the nation, it does rank among what Icelanders see as their country's top five challenges. 77% of Icelanders stated that health care ranked #1. This was followed by issues related to wealth inequality and poverty, then transportation, then education issues. The environment ranked fifth, with 23% of Icelanders believing that environmental issues are among the country’s greatest challenges.

Electric car ownership was one of many related topics covered in the survey, which found that 8% of respondents say they already own an electric or hybrid vehicle. 83% of respondents can imagine purchasing a car powered by environmentally friendly energy sources, however, with 57% preferring an electric hybrid and 49% opting for a fully electric car.

Árni Finnsson, chairman of the Iceland Nature Conservation Association, says there’s been a great need for a survey like this, as it’s been two years since Gallup last conducted one on the same subject matter in Iceland. The previous survey yielded similar results, showing, among other things, that the public believes that the government needs to do a lot more regarding environmental issues. Árni says that the public is waiting for government policies that don’t yet exist, but that Iceland has work on these issues at home, in order to have the credibility to advocate for better climate change policies in the world at large.

“We’re just one part of the world that has to deal with this problem,” he said. “Our case is never stronger than when we can make arguments based on what we’re doing at home. We have to do our homework so that we have credibility when we’re calling on other nations to come through.”

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