April 18, 2016

What the world thinks about climate change in 7 charts

On April 22, leaders and representatives from more than 150 countries will gather at the United Nations to sign the global climate change agreement reached in Paris in December. Pew Research Center’s spring 2015 survey found that people around the world are concerned about climate change and want their governments to take action. Here are seven key findings from the poll:

1Majorities in all 40 nations polled say climate change is a serious problem, and a global median of 54% believe it is a very serious problem. Still, the intensity of concern varies substantially across regions and nations. Latin Americans and sub-Saharan Africans are particularly worried about climate change. Americans and Chinese, whose countries have the highest overall carbon dioxide emissions, are less concerned.

2People in countries with high per-capita levels of carbon emissions are less intensely concerned about climate change. Among the nations we surveyed, the U.S. has the highest carbon emissions per capita, but it is among the least concerned about climate change and its potential impact. Others in this category are Australia, Canada and Russia. Publics in Africa, Latin America and Asia, many of which have very low emissions per capita, are frequently the most concerned about the negative effects of climate change.

3Immediacy of Climate Change Worries Latin Americans, Europeans MostClimate change is not seen as a distant threat. A global median of 51% say climate change is already harming people around the world, while another 28% believe it will do so in the next few years. This view is especially common in Latin America. For instance, fully 90% of Brazilians say climate change is harming people now. Europeans are also particularly likely to hold this opinion. However, only 41% of Americans believe people are being harmed by climate change today.

4Drought tops the list of climate change concerns. We read respondents a list of four potential effects of global warming, and asked which one concerns them the most: droughts or water shortages; severe weather, such as floods or intense storms; long periods of unusually hot weather; or rising sea levels. In 31 nations, drought is a top worry. Fully half of Americans name drought as their chief climate change concern, and this is especially true in drought-plagued Western states compared with other regions of the country.

Threat of Drought Most Concerning across All Regions

5Most Say Rich Countries Should Bear More of Climate Change CostMost people in the countries we surveyed say rich nations should do more than developing nations to address climate change. A median of 54% agree with the statement “Rich countries, such as the U.S., Japan and Germany, should do more than developing countries because they have produced most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions so far.” A median of just 38% think “developing countries should do just as much as rich countries because they will produce most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions in the future.” Notably, the U.S. is among a small group of countries in which half or more believe developing countries should do just as much – half of Americans hold this view, while only four-in-ten want rich countries to shoulder more of the costs.

6To deal with climate change, most think changes in both policy and lifestyle will be necessary. A median of 78% support the idea of their country joining a global agreement in Paris to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Two-thirds believe people will have to make major lifestyle changes to combat climate change, while just 22% say technology will solve the problem and major changes in how people live won’t be needed. Even in the U.S., a country known for its technological advances, only 23% believe technology alone can solve climate change. 

7Americans’ views about climate issues divide sharply along partisan lines. The polarization that characterizes U.S. public opinion on so many issues is especially stark on climate change. Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to consider it a very serious problem, believe its effects are being felt now, think it will harm them personally, and support U.S. participation in an international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Category: 5 Facts

Topics: Energy and Environment, International Governments and Institutions

  1. Photo of Richard Wike

    is director of global attitudes research at Pew Research Center.

38 Comments

  1. Anonymous5 months ago

    The portrail of the problem of climate change is very interesting, particulary with regards to how serious the problem is, but NOT enough about what can be done
    about it, i.e. Solar Panels and Solar Energy in general,
    which can be effectively converted, to offset the negative
    effects of solar heat !

  2. Anonymous5 months ago

    Funny how everyone who isn’t a climate scientist “knows it all”.

  3. Anonymous5 months ago

    In 2010, the birthrate in the U. S. was about 2.12 per viable woman age 16 to 44 years (if I’m not remembering in error). Recently a published figure for the birthrate in the U. S. was 1.9 per viable woman, age 16 to 44. It is fairly difficult to determine where such numbers come from and how they were determined, but if these two are nearly accurate, global warming will be reducing as the need for industry falls. (Other reductions in population are likely.) The U. N. has an organization that tracks population levels, trends , etc. We should be factoring in population changes to estimate the needs for heat producing industry and population practices in order to estimate the rate of global warming. It is not a simple problem. But if humans cause global warming, then the rate of population growth is a factor to be considered.

  4. Bob Guzauskas5 months ago

    Climate change is poorly understood and wrongly communicated even by scientists. Talk centers around CO2 and Methane gases and pretty much ignores Water Vapor, liquid and frozen water. Water in it’s various forms regulates heat on our planet. The Earth’s Circadian Rhythm, rotation on it’s axis, should produce dark nights and radiative cooling of the air, land and water. But that radiative cooling mechanism, an important part of planet Earth’s circadian rhythm, is upset by night time human activity: lights, cars, factories, homes, etc.. Without night time cooling by circadian rhythm, heat accumulates in Earth’s water. The hotter water will have a higher vapor pressure that will be relieved by a negative feedback – precipitation in the form of rain or snow. So ironically global warming may precipitate (a pun??) the next ice age.

    1. Anonymous4 months ago

      Always knew Lithuanians were smart people~ lol

      1. Ira Galiuk4 months ago

        I don’t see the connection between abnormal precipitation and speeding-up the next ice age. Would you explain it please?

  5. Joseph Oreilly5 months ago

    The major difference I can see is that agrarian societies are more concerned about drought while the rest are more sanguine. The issue that should be in question is not ‘is there climate change’, it like the weather is in constant flux. The question, and the proof should be, ‘is climate change’ caused by man or just another natural cycle? Seems to me that real evidence does not need to be adjusted or coordinated. Linking CO2 only to human sources too is fraught with the appearance of ‘book cooking’.

  6. Aleck Janoulis5 months ago

    The only thing that will cause a major disruption of the climate is if a super volcano blows like Yellowstone. As a retired hydrology engineer, I can attest that annual rain cycles are related to sunspot activity in intervals of approximately 11 years. That is the only climate change I will agree actually happens in an average lifetime. Since the oceans absorb heat, they act to stabilize the ecosystem since they cover 7/10s of the planet.

  7. Anonymous5 months ago

    I won’t call it denial, but I believe I am like many who doubt the permanency of climate change problems. I feel like, in 10 years, we will all be wondering what the big deal was… however 10 years ago I said the same thing. Isn’t there a big pendulum that is supposed to swing the other way? Do we really need to make major changes if this is a temporary problem? Is this problem temporary? Any signs of remission? Without China pitching in, aren’t all our fixes in the U.S. useless?

    1. Anonymous5 months ago

      *says in 10 years won’t be a problem when we have been saying this is a problem for decades now* it is denial. Look at the peer-reviewed evidence on the subject. The scientific community has thousands of experiments of the subject.

      1. Anonymous5 months ago

        Peer review is not scientific proof

        1. Anonymous5 months ago

          And ice cream isn’t chocolate cake… I don’t think you understand what peer review is.

    2. Anonymous5 months ago

      Co2 levels are about twice as high as they have been in over 200,000 years. In addition, every actual scientific institution in the world agrees that climate change is a problem.
      Ocean levels have been proven and proven again to be rising. Undisputed fact. And glaciers have not only been proven to be melting, but there are pictures taken in the early 1900s and now showing straight out their decay.

  8. Packard Day5 months ago

    As long as we can all agree that someone else will necessarily need to pay, I think we can fairly say that we are now 100% behind finding an immediate remedy for this problem.

    1. Anonymous5 months ago

      We will all pay in the end!

  9. Xavier Van Damme5 months ago

    Denial has always been a human trait.. It seems that it’s proved here. Correlated to culpability?

  10. Phil Chen5 months ago

    Fascinating correlation between concern and emmision, although the standard deviation seems big for a lot of the data points. I wonder overall how effectively this model predicts emission (or conversely, concern), considering p-values and R-squared values.

    In addition to per capita emission, it would be fascinating to juxtapose attitude with per capita cost of climate change, since climate change creates porous externalities, presumably affecting attitudes. Perhaps a joint effort between Pew Attitude and some environmental economics think tank?

  11. Andy May5 months ago

    It is interesting that people from around the equator are the most concerned. If climate change due to CO2 happens, the smallest effect will be near the equator. That temperature has remained stable for millions of years. Also, the idea of drought (near the equator) is silly. If we warm due to CO2, rainfall near the equator will increase, as it did during the Holocene Thermal Optimum when the Sahara was a savanah. The impact of climate change due to CO2, if it happens will be at the poles and in the middle latitudes. More info here:

    andymaypetrophysicist.com/2016/0…

    andymaypetrophysicist.com/2015/1…

    1. Anonymous5 months ago

      Since the equator receives the most direct sunlight, then ozone decay could have devastating affects if deadly rays from the sun reach the equator.

  12. Mike Haseler5 months ago

    I used to regularly read any news about global warming … but now even journalists really don’t care about the subject.

  13. Troy10 months ago

    Two problems with the Global Warmists:

    1. It is often “quoted that 97 percent of “scientists” agree that the Earth is Warming, but you will never get a list of those “scientists” and how they expressed their agreement,
    nor the data they were looking at when they expressed their agreement.

    2. People publish maps which purport to show that the Earth is warming, but careful examination of those maps reveal about 1.75 degrees C. over the last Century.

    Frequently a mob can be convinced to cheer for anything. That’s not what we need.

    1. Anonymous5 months ago

      When is the last time you spoke face to face with a real scientist? Not someone elses opinions from the net. or FOX news or whater means of publicity.
      I bet you don’t even go to your local college and speak to a teacher, or scientist about the subject.
      Try it some time.
      Get your facts correct please.
      When is the last time you had a converstion with an oceanographer?
      Facts from a person who works at this stuff for a living is awesome.

      1. Tim Holloway5 months ago

        Haha! Lectured by Anonymous. I think you just bolstered his point that these 97% are largely invisible.

        Proven hoax years ago. Outed by leaked email showing deliberate falsification of evidence.

      2. Anonymous5 months ago

        First it was fear of the next ice age, then global warming drivel, now the all-encompassing “climate change” moniker is the adopted slogan of collectivist parasites wherever the masses can be manipulated. If you want truth, follow the money. The only “scientists” pushing the man-made climate change agenda are those with strong political ties dependent on leftist electoral success to continue the cash flow of research grants and unending studies who’s opaque results are, at best, revealing an unproven possibility and, at worst, the preordained outcome of a junk thesis. Real science isn’t afraid of critics; quite contrarily, it’s theories welcome challenges to its conclusions and hold steadfast to sound controls.

    2. Donald McClane5 months ago

      Does anyone reading and commenting on this topic have a memory? Do you remember Al Gore and the Inconvenient Truth? Climate Change, formerly Global Warming formerly Global Cooling is an ongoing farcical scam perpetrated by Liberals and pounded into the heads of our college students by so-called scientists, all of which are well funded by left leaning government grants. If you have the courage to follow the money, you will find the people receiving these grants are totally subjective, in favor of the perpetuation of suppling dubious evidence of this myth. It aims at nothing more than the redistribution of wealth. The obvious plan is stripping wealth from Capitalist countries and distributing that wealth to third world and often Marxist dictatorships. If this sounds extreme, think of the effort taken to sell this scam.

      1. Donald McClane5 months ago

        Some of you may doubt my accusation, that Climate Change is a farce and totally a political scam. I will offer some possible proof. With as little anger and as much objectiveness as you can muster, be truthful and answer this simple question, are you a Democrat or Liberal, or Republican, Conservative?
        If you can be honest with yourself, I think the answer will be obvious. If you believe Climate Change is caused and within the control of man, I submit that you have bought into the progressive, liberal and Democrats political talking points.
        Am I full of it? Are you? Fess up.

    3. Anonymous4 months ago

      Well put!

  14. Troy10 months ago

    54 per cent is a very small majority. Much of the world is looking for an excuse for poor performance other than lack of education and energy. There is a recognized global warming of 2 degrees Celcius per century. Very few deny this. Those that do not want to invest heavily in GW control without very persuasive evidence want to see more evidence than is currently available.

  15. Margaret Gardner11 months ago

    I thought this was hugely interesting – if on the whole not surprising. Really useful contribution in the run up to Paris. Thank You!

    You say that two thirds of people believed that they would have to make a major change in their life style if we were to combat climate change – did you ask if they were wiling to make those changes? At Practical Action we did some much lower level research a few years ago and while people recognised the need to change – when you asked what they would be prepared to change the actions they felt happy to do were pretty limited.

    I don’t think we will push change by nightmare scenarios – we have to find a way of marketing change that’s centred around ‘there is a benefit to me’ as well as the planet – and people in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Real challenge but an exciting and urgent!

  16. Charles H. Taylor11 months ago

    Apocalyptical Event, No. Extinction Event, Absolutely!!!!! God has nothing to do with it. Just arrogant, greedy, stupid human beings. All of us!!!!

  17. Franklin Fass11 months ago

    I was a meteorologist for the first seven years of my Air Force career. I did my graduate studies in meteorology at New York University in New York City. Humans do not and cannot cause global climate change. The sun is the cause of global climate change, not humans or human activity. Just recently it was reported the south pole has an increase in ice. This is further proof humans are not increasing the world temperature. The variations in the sun’s heat cause warming and cooling. When the heat from the sun is reduced, we have cooler temperatures. This is why we had the ice age. The opposite effect occurs when the sun’s heat increases.

    1. Andrei11 months ago

      Obviously you are not a meterologist.
      Did you miss the class on the atmosphere?
      It is some serious accusations you are comming with.
      Are you trying to say that we live in a global greenhouse effect conspiracy?
      Of course the variational cycles of heat from the sun is causing the warming and cooling, nobody is doubting that. But how in the earth is that a proof that humans are not affecting the climate at all?

      1. John Brofka11 months ago

        Please include literacy levels next time.

    2. Jill11 months ago

      Thank you for injecting some sense into this discussion. The sun and the Milankovic cycles are the controlling factors. Present-day greenhouse gas emissions might cause a small amount of warming, but if you look carefully at the correlations of temperature and CO2 concentrations over hundreds of thousands of years, the change in CO2 concentration appears to be a response to temperature change, not a cause. Further, the positive feedback from water vapor is not at all certain. The effects of clouds are not well known.

    3. Anonymous4 months ago

      Thank you Franklin! The fact is that humans are just not significant enough to cause changes at this level.

  18. Arizona Al11 months ago

    Why is it that China’s opinion of and participation in the spread of toxic and carbon based gases seem to be left out of this research study? Did they hang up on you when you did your survey??

    1. Phil Chen5 months ago

      No. China is in the dataset.

  19. kathleen stewart11 months ago

    Your map graphic shows Canada shaded green indicating more concern about climate change, but in the text you group it with the nations less concerned. Any comment?