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Ticos in the dark about climate change

March 12, 2010

Three years after president Oscar Arias promised to neutralize Costa Rica´s greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2021, his government appears to have failed in taking its climate change message to the majority of its nation´s citizens.

A survey released on Wednesday by the Tropical Agronomy Research Center (CATIE) to gauge public consensus on climate change concluded that 71 percent of Costa Ricans say they need “a lot more information” about climate change in order to understand the issue.

The survey´s 1,473 participants considered local governments to be the “least trustworthy sources” of information about climate change, alongside private companies and religious leaders. Scientists, news mediums and conservation groups proved to be the “most trustworthy” sources for such information, according to the respondents.

The survey found that 90.3 percent of those sampled believe climate change is occurring in the country, but the survey concluded that much confusion exists about what climate change is and what causes the phenomenon.

When asked which factors contribute to climate change, deforestation received the greatest response, with 81 percent saying it is a contributing factor.

And while deforestation does contribute to global temperature increases, the majority of scientists agree that the burning of fossil fuels is the greatest contributor to climate change. Only 44 percent of those surveyed recognized fossil fuels as a contributing factor.

Communicating the climate change message falls largely on the shoulders of Peace with Nature, an initiative which Arias founded in 2007, and which is developing the carbon neutrality program.

Pedro Leon, the initiative´s director, said “it is clear that we need to educate the population so that they understand the issue, if we are going to accomplish (carbon neutrality).”

Of the 1,473 persons interviewed for the survey, 62 percent lived in urban areas and 38 percent in rural zones. Males accounted for 35.5 percent of respondents, while women made up 64.5 percent of the interviewees. The average age of those interviewed was 40.95 years.

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