Monday 7 December 2009

Climate Concerns Continue to Increase: Global Poll

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Public concern about climate change is at its highest level since GlobeScan began international tracking in 1998, according to a new GlobeScan/BBC World Service poll conducted in 23 countries. Nearly two thirds of those polled now say climate change is a “very serious” problem. However, concern has fallen in China and the USA.

On the eve of the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen, only six per cent of the 24,000 people polled want their government to oppose a climate deal being reached in Denmark.

The poll also shows that, in spite of the global recession, an average of 61% support their governments making investments to address climate change, even if these investments hurt the economy.

However, the poll finds that public opinion in the world’s two largest emitters of CO2 is more ambivalent. While the Chinese are the most likely to support government investments to address climate change even if these harm the economy (with 89% in favour), only 52% of Americans feel the same way. Also, the percentage of American (45%) and Chinese citizens (57%) who see climate change as “very serious” is below the 23-country average of 64%.

The overall results show that there is strong support for governments taking an ambitious approach to the Copenhagen negotiations. On average, 44%—and majorities in 10 of the 23 countries polled—say they want their government to “play a leading role in setting ambitious targets to address climate change” at Copenhagen. A further 39% think their government should “adopt a more moderate approach and support only gradual action.” Only six per cent want their government to oppose any agreement.

Majorities in major European nations support their government playing a strong leadership role in Copenhagen—62% in the UK, 57% in France, and 55% in Germany. Other governments being pressed by their citizens to show leadership include Canada (61%), Australia (57%), Japan (57%), and Brazil (53%).

In comparison, Chinese opinion about Copenhagen favours a “moderate approach” involving “only gradual action” (49%) over a “leadership approach” (37%). In the United States, 36% favour a “moderate approach” and 14% oppose any agreement, outweighing the 46% of Americans who want their government to show leadership.

The results are drawn from a survey of 24,071 adult citizens in 23 countries, conducted by the international polling firm GlobeScan between 19 June and 13 October, 2009.

GlobeScan Chairman Doug Miller commented: “The poll shows strong worldwide support for action on climate change, in spite of the recession. However, the mixed opinions in the United States and China suggest leadership in Copenhagen may need to come from others.”

Participating Countries

Note: In Brazil, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, the Philippines, and Turkey urban samples were used. Please see the Methodology for further details.


Detailed Findings

The UK, Canada, and Kenya are the countries whose citizens are keenest for their governments to play leadership roles in setting ambitious targets at the summit (UK 62%, Canada and Kenya each 61%). Otherwise, developing countries are generally more cautious in the approach they are looking for their government to play—only around a third in countries like Pakistan and the Philippines (each 36%), or India (33%), and even fewer in Indonesia (23%), support their governments seeking ambitious targets in Copenhagen.

Outright opposition to a deal is limited to small minorities in all survey countries. The countries with the highest proportions of those opposing any international agreement are the United States (14%), Brazil (12%), and Pakistan (12%).

In 19 of 23 countries polled, including all developed nations, there is majority support for government investments to address climate change, including investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency and public transport, even if these hurt the economy. The exceptions are Pakistan, where only 19% would support such investments in these circumstances, the Philippines (32%), Indonesia (38%), and Turkey (49%). After China (89%), the countries where the largest majorities support government investments to address climate change, even where these would cause economic harm, are Kenya (77%), France (75%), Mexico (71%), Australia (70%), and the UK (70%).

The countries with the largest proportions supporting government action are not always those with the highest proportions regarding climate change as very serious. Brazil (86% “very serious”), Costa Rica (83%), the Philippines (83%), and Turkey (81%) appear to be most convinced of the magnitude of the climate change problem. Despite Kenyans’ enthusiasm for government investment, a lower than average proportion (52%) regard climate change as a “very serious” problem.

The survey also finds that concern about climate change continues on an upward trend, even in a recession year. Thirteen of the countries in this year’s survey have been polled regularly by GlobeScan over the last eleven years on their views of climate change: since 1998, the proportion rating it as a “very serious” issue for the world has climbed from 44% to 63%.


In total 24,071 citizens in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, the Philippines, Russia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone between 19 June and 13 October, 2009 (the exception being Japan where the fieldwork was conducted online). Polling was conducted for BBC World Service by GlobeScan and its research partners in each country. The margin of error per country ranges from +/-2.2 to 4.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

For more details, please visit as well as the GlobeScan Insights blog at


Media Contacts

For media interviews with the participating pollsters, please contact:

Sam Mountford, Research Director
GlobeScan Incorporated, London
+44 20 7253 1447
(Mobile: +44 7854 132625)

Oliver Martin, Director Global Development
GlobeScan Incorporated, Toronto
+1 416 969 3073
(Mobile: +1 416 721 3544)

GlobeScan Incorporated is a global survey research firm providing strategic advice to companies, multilateral institutions, governments, and NGOs, on reputation, sustainability, and corporate responsibility. The company is a world leader in conducting comprehensive survey research in all regions of the world amongst general publics and stakeholders.

The BBC World Service is an international multimedia broadcaster delivering 32 language and regional services. It uses multiple platforms to reach its weekly audience of 188 million globally, including shortwave, AM, FM, digital satellite and cable channels. It has around 2,000 partner radio stations which take BBC content, and numerous partnerships supplying content to mobile phones and other wireless handheld devices. Its news sites include audio and video content and offer opportunities to join the global debate. For more information, visit To find out more about the BBC’s English language offer and subscribe to a free e-newsletter, visit