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98 percent of Costa Ricans believe in climate change, says UN survey

December 2, 2014

Nearly every single Costa Rican surveyed by the United Nations Development Program said they agreed the climate is changing, and more than 90 percent said that humans are at least partially responsible. The survey results released Monday also showed that Costa Ricans would be willing to pay more to reduce their impact on the planet. (See a PDF of the survey in Spanish here)

Costa Rica’s reputation as a “green” country is well established. The country made a name for itself in the eco-tourism field through an aggressive reforestation and conservation program that began in the 1970s, and President Luis Guillermo Solís reaffirmed a pledge dating back to 2007 made by President Óscar Arias (2006-2010) to make Costa Rica one of the world’s first carbon-neutral countries. The debate continues as to whether or not Costa Rica will ever achieve that ambitious goal, but one thing that seems sure from the survey is the high environmental awareness of Ticos.

Only 54 percent of U.S. respondents say that climate change has started, and only 36 percent believe that climate change is a major threat to their way of life, according to a March survey by Gallup.

According to the UNDP survey:

  • 70 percent said that people were responsible for climate change.
  • 73 percent of Ticos acknowledged that their actions have important consequences for the environment.
  • 93 percent said that individuals or companies that pollute should be held responsible for any environmental damage.
  • 65.5 percent said that the government should take steps to protect the environment, even if it meant collecting more taxes.

In addition to paying more taxes, some Costa Ricans appear inclined to pay more for products in the supermarket from companies that promise to reduce their environmental footprint, including organic coffee and other foods, or environmentally friendly meat. Ticos also said they’d pay more for energy efficient refrigerators or hybrid vehicles, such as a Toyota Prius, for example.

The survey also found a strong preference for renewable energy sources, including wind (87 percent) and geothermal (77 percent), compared to petroleum (22 percent).

Costa Ricans may believe that the climate is changing, but climate change did not rank among the biggest environmental concerns for respondents. The survey showed that air pollution (22.5 percent) was the top environmental concern, followed by inadequate trash management (19.8 percent) and water pollution (17.2 percent). A scant 1.8 percent named climate change as the biggest environmental problem facing the Central American country.

The UNDP and the Statistics Department of the University of Costa Rica conducted the survey by calling 1,203 homes with a hardline telephone between August and September. The survey has a margin of error of 2.8 percent and 95 percent confidence.

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