Climate change opinion by country
Climate change opinion is the aggregate of public opinion held by the adult population. Cost constraints often restrict surveys to sample only one or two countries from each continent or focus on only one region. Because of differences among questions, wording, and methods—it is difficult to reliably compare results or to generalize them to opinions held worldwide.
In 2007–2008, the Gallup Poll surveyed individuals from 128 countries in the first comprehensive study of global opinions. The Gallup Organization aggregated opinion from the adult population fifteen years of age and older, either through the telephone or personal interviews, and in both rural and urban areas except in areas where the safety of interviewer was threatened and in scarcely populated islands. Personal interviews were stratified by population size or geography and cluster sampling was achieved through one or more stages. Although error bounds vary, they were all below ±6% with 95% confidence.
Weighting countries to a 2008 World Bank population estimate, 61% of individuals worldwide were aware of global warming, developed countries more aware than developing, with Africa the least aware. The median of people perceiving it as a threat was 47%. Latin America and developed countries in Asia led the belief that climate change was a result of human activities, while Africa, parts of Asia and the Middle East, and countries from the Former Soviet Union led in the opposite. Awareness often translates to concern, although of those aware, individuals in Europe and developed countries in Asia perceived global warming as a greater threat than others.
Views on climate change by region
People in Africa are relatively concerned about climate change compared to the Middle East and parts of Asia. However, they are less concerned than most of Latin America and Europe. Currently, 61% of people in Africa consider climate change to be a very serious problem, and 52% believe that climate change is harming people now. While 59% of Africans are worried about droughts or water shortages, only 16% are concerned about severe weather, and 3% are concerned about rising sea levels. Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are especially troubled about increasing desertification even as they account for .04% of global carbon dioxide emissions. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the concern over climate change drops to only 34% of the population considering climate change to be a "very" or "somewhat serious issue". Even so, according to the Pew Research Center 2015 Global Attitudes Survey, some particular countries are more concerned than others. In Uganda 76% of people, 68% in Ghana, 45% in South Africa and 40% in Ethiopia consider climate change to be a very serious problem.
Latin America has a larger percentage of people concerned with climate change than other regions of the world. 74% consider climate change to be a serious problem and 77% say that it is harming people now which is 20 points higher than the global median according to the Pew Research Center. 63% of people in Latin America are very concerned that climate change will harm them personally. When looked at more specifically, Mexico and Central America are the most worried at 81.5% believing that climate change is a very serious issue. South America is slightly less anxious at 75% and the Caribbean, at the relatively high rate of 66.7%, is the least concerned. Brazil is an important country in global climate change politics because it is the eleventh largest emitter and unlike other large emitter countries, 86% consider global warming to be a very serious problem. Compared to the rest of the world, Latin America is more consistently concerned with high percentages of the population worried about climate change. Further, in Latin America, 67% believe in personal responsibility for climate change and say that people will have to make major lifestyle modifications.
Europeans have a tendency to be more concerned about climate change than much of the world, with the exception of Latin America. However there is a divide between Eastern Europe, where people are less worried about climate change, and Western Europe. In Europe, there is a range from 88% to 97% of people feeling that climate change is happening and similar ranges are present for agreeing that climate change is caused by human activity and that the impacts of it will be bad. Generally Eastern European countries are slightly less likely to believe in climate change, or the dangers of it, with 63% saying it is very serious, 24% considering it to be fairly serious and only 10% saying it is not a serious problem. When asked if they feel a personal responsibility to help reduce climate change, on a scale of 0, not at all, to 10, a great deal, Europeans respond with the average score of 5.6. When looked at more specifically, Western Europeans are closer to the response of 7 while Eastern European countries respond with an average of less than 4. When asked if Europeans are willing to pay more for climate change, 49% are willing, however only 9% of Europeans have already switched to a greener energy supply. Thus, while a large majority of Europeans believe in the dangers of climate change, their feelings of personal responsibility to deal with the issue are much more limited. Especially in terms of actions that could already have been taken - such as having already switched to greener energies discussed above - one can see Europeans' feelings of personal responsibility are limited.
Asia and the Pacific have a tendency to be less concerned about climate change, except small island states, with developing countries in Asia being less concerned than developed countries. In Asia and the Pacific, around 45% of people believe that climate change is a very serious problem and similarly 48% believe that it is harming people now. Only 37% of people in Asia and the Pacific are very concerned that climate change will harm them personally. There is a large gap between developing Asia and developed Asia. Only 31% of developing Asia considers global warming to be a "very" or "somewhat" serious threat and 74% of developed Asia considers global warming to be a serious threat. It could be argued that one reason for this is that people in more developed countries in Asia are more educated on the issues, especially given that developing countries in Asia do face significant threats from climate change. The most relevant views on climate change are those of the citizens in the countries that are emitting the most. For example, in China, the world's largest emitter, 68% of Chinese people are satisfied with their government's efforts to preserve the environment. And in India, the world's third largest emitter, 77% of Indian people are satisfied with their country's efforts to preserve the environment.
While the increasing severity of droughts and other dangerous realities are and will continue to be a problem in the Middle East, the region has one of the smallest rates of concern in the world. 38% believe that climate change is a very serious problem and 26% believe that climate change is harming people now. Of the four Middle Eastern countries polled in a Pew Global Study, on what is their primary concern, Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon named ISIS, and Turkey stated United States encroachment. 38% of Israel considers climate change to be a major threat to their country, 40% of Jordan, 58% of Lebanon and 53% of Turkey. This is compared to relatively high numbers of residents who believe that ISIS is a major threat to their country ranging from 63% to 97%. In the poll, 38% of the Middle East are concerned about drought and 19% are concerned about long periods of unusually hot weather. 42% are satisfied with their own country's current efforts to preserve the environment.
North America has mixed perceptions on climate change ranging from Mexico and Canada that are both more concerned, and the United States, the world's second largest emitter, that is less concerned. Mexico is the most concerned about climate change of the three countries in North America. 90% consider climate change to be a very serious problem and 83% believe that climate change is harming people substantially right now. Canadians are also seriously concerned, 20% are extremely concerned, 30% are definitely concerned, 31% are somewhat concerned and only 19% are not very/not at all concerned about climate change. While the United States which is the largest emitter of CO2 in North America and the second largest emitter of CO2 in the world has the lowest degrees of concern about climate change in North America. While 61% of Americans say they are concerned about climate change, that is 30% lower than Mexico and 20% lower than Canada. 41% believe that climate change could impact them personally. Nonetheless, 70% of Americans believe that environmental protections are more important than economic growth according to a Yale climate opinion study.
Differences between regions
While climate change will affect the entire world, opinion differences between regions of the world about these affects vary significantly. The Middle East has one of the smallest rates of concern in the world, especially compared to Latin America. Europe and Africa have mixed views on climate change but lean towards action by a significant degree. Europeans focus substantially on climate change when compared to United States residents, which are less concerned than the global median, even as the United States is the second biggest emitter in the world. Droughts/water shortages are one of the biggest fears about the impacts of climate change, especially in Latin America and Africa. Developed countries in Asia have levels of concern about climate change similar to Latin America which has one of the highest rates of concern. This is surprising as developing countries in Asia have levels of worry similar to the Middle East, one of the areas with the lowest levels of concern. Large emitters such as China usually ignore issues surrounding climate change as people in China have very low levels of concern about it. The only significant exception to this tendency by large emitters, is Brazil. Brazil is eleventh biggest emitter in the world and is a country that has high levels of concern about climate change, levels similar to much of Latin America.
Source: Pew Research Center's Spring 2015 Global Attitudes Survey - Q32, Q41 & Q42
Source: Pew Research Center's Spring 2015 Global Attitudes Survey - Q32
Developing countries vs developed countries
Awareness about climate change is higher in developed countries than in developing countries. A large majority of people in Indonesia, Pakistan and Nigeria do not know about climate change, particularly in Muslim majority countries. There is often awareness about environmental changes in developing countries, but the framework for understanding it is limited. In developing and developed countries, people similarly believe that poor countries have a responsibility to act on climate change. Since the 2009 Copenhagen summit, concern over climate change in wealthy countries has gone down. In 2009, 63% of people in OECD member states considered climate change to be "very serious" but by 2015, it had gone down to 48%. Support for national leadership creating further action addressing climate change has also gone down. Of the 21 countries surveyed in GlobeScan's 2015 survey, Canada, France, Spain and the UK are the only ones that have the majority of the population desiring their leadership to take further action to meet the emission targets set by the Paris climate accord. While concern and desire for action has gone down in developed countries, awareness over it is higher. Since 2000, twice as many people will connect extreme weather events with human caused climate change.
2007-2008 Gallup poll table
- Confidence on knowledge about global warming or climate change
- Knowing "something" or a "great deal" about global warming when asked "How much do you know about global warming or climate change?"
- Caused by human activity
- Responding yes when asked, "Temperature rise is part of global warming or climate change. Do you think rising temperatures are [...] a result of human activities?" Note: the other answer option was "a result of natural causes," but respondents were also allowed to indicate "both" (or "no opinion"). People voting "both" are not included in the numbers.
- Perceived as threat
- Responding that global warming is a serious personal threat.
Unless referenced otherwise, all data is from the 2007–2008 Gallup poll mentioned earlier.
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