Public opinion on the climate challenge: a trip around the world before COP21 (06 november, 2015)

The Pew Research Center study on climate change, which was published on 5 November 2015 and based on a sample of 44,000 people from over 40 countries on all 5 continents, is the largest global opinion poll on this topic, representing 76% of the world population.

Global public opinion is very strongly in favour of an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

With just a few weeks left before COP21, there seems to be a global consensus on the gravity of the climate challenge and the need for governments to rise to this challenge in Paris. Almost 85% of respondents consider climate change to be at least a “somewhat serious” problem, and the majority of them (54%) consider it to be a “very serious” one.

Beyond recognition of the situation, this study shows a real desire to take action: respondents worldwide say that they are ready for change and the vast majority of them are ready to support strong measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Over 75% support their own country limiting greenhouse gas emissions as part of an international agreement. In many countries, there is even virtually unanimous support for government action of this kind: 91% in Spain and Uganda, 90% in Tanzania, 89% in Italy and South Korea, 88% in Brazil and Chile, 87% in Burkina Faso and Germany, and 86% in France.

A mandate for an ambitious agreement

The global population knows that half-measures will not be enough to combat climate change: only one fifth believes that technology alone can solve the problem, whereas two thirds are aware that people will need to make major changes in the way they live. Aside from regional variation, global public opinion as a whole seems ready to take collective action to transform behaviour: as Laurent Fabius recently stated, “the recent synthesis report of the UNFCCC secretariat confirms that it is possible to achieve a pathway that keeps global warming below 1.5-2°C between now and the end of the century, but that this requires additional efforts over time” [link to statement in French: http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/fr/politique-etrangere-de-la-france/climat/paris-2015-cop21/actualites-et-evenements-lies-a-paris-climat-2015/article/climat-rapport-de-synthese-sur-l-effet-des-contributions-nationales-declaration], and the majority of respondents seem to share the same view.

Widespread awareness: climate change is a very real concern for the world’s population

More than simply a political issue, climate change has become a real, personal concern for people: 72% of those surveyed by the Pew Research Center feel very or somewhat concerned that global climate change will harm them personally at some point. They fear the very real consequences of climate change, such as droughts or water shortages (a global median of 66%), severe weather (25%), long periods of unusually hot weather (14%) and rising sea levels (6%).

And although certain countries buck the global trend (for example, only 15% of Chinese people feel “very concerned” on a personal level and just 18% feel climate change to be a “very serious” problem), there is still a desire for an international agreement: 71% of Chinese respondents support the signing of an international agreement, which is a difference of over 50 percentage points.

For the full report and a breakdown of the results, visit: http://www.pewglobal.org/2015/11/05/global-concern-about-climate-change-broad-support-for-limiting-emissions/

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