Pittsburgh TODAY recently conducted a Regional Environment Survey and published its report, detailing attitudes and behaviors of citizens toward environmental issues in Western Pennsylvania. Reading through the report, I found that some results were not what I would have expected. Specifically, I’ve highlighted some perceptions and actions of interest below. Overall, the report does give us a better understanding of what people in our region think about the environment, how they value it, if it’s of concern to them, and how they see their own roles contributing to the larger picture of our region’s environmental health.
Some key points I noticed that you may also find of interest include:
- Overall, it seems people in Western Pennsylvania think highly of their own actions, but don’t feel those actions can aggregate to make a difference.
- Despite data showing otherwise, people think our streams and rivers are more of an environmental challenge than our outdoor air quality (to learn more about the state of our region’s air quality and what is being done to improve it, check our our Inspire Speakers Series on November 14).
- Most citizens in our region support greater government regulation and responsibility of environmental issues – even greenhouse gas emissions.
- Finally, on the often contentious topic of Marcellus Shale, most people recognize both its economic gain and environmental costs – and even that we should limit energy production to protect the environment.
Also, here are some interesting statistics that caught my eye:
- Nearly 79% of residents in the region believe there is little or nothing they can do to solve environmental problems.
- Nearly 65% or residents in the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) describe air quality as a minor problem or not a problem at all. Check out Pittsburgh TODAY’s follow-up blog on this topic.
- More than 2/3 of residents across the MSA view the quality of the region’s streams and rivers as a severe or moderate problem.
- 95% report that they turn of lights and electronics in unoccupied rooms.
- 74% of people say they regularly recycle.
- Most residents dramatically underestimate their household water use.
- More than 78% agree that government should be responsible for solving Pittsburgh’s environmental problems.
- 2/3 believe state government oversight of the environment should increase.
- 73% support mandatory controls to curb carbon dioxide and GHG emissions
- 17% believe environmental regulations threaten their job.
- 57% believe that protecting the environment should be a higher priority than economic growth, even if it means slowing economic growth.
- 58% believe that protecting the environment should be a priority over energy production, even at the risk of limiting the nation’s fossil fuel supply.
- 79% believe Marcellus Shale drilling represents a significant or moderate economic opportunity for the region; 59% believe drilling poses a significant or moderate threat to public health and the environment.
- 64% describe climate change as a severe to moderate problem; 18.5% don’t think it’s a problem; 56% believe human activities are largely to blame; the rest think it’s natural changes.
As Lindsay Baxter (PEC) pointed out, responses to this survey may be skewed based on those that responded. Only 30% of the households or individuals called actually participated, which may indicate that respondents are those more predisposed to environmental interests. Pittsburgh TODAY does emphasize that “People who agree to participate in surveys focused on a single issue, such as the environment, are more likely to have an awareness of and interest in that issue compared to those who take a survey on a range of disparate issues such as the 2011 Quality of Life Survey.”
The report still has many useful and interesting takeaways about the environmental awareness and opinions of Western Pennsylvanians — especially on several concerns like air quality, climate change, and Marcellus Shale drilling that will be at the forefront of local discussion for many years to come.