CLIMATE CHANGE: Publics See Warming as Urgent, Govts as Failing

  • by Katie Mattern (washington)
  • Thursday, July 30, 2009
  • Inter Press Service

The poll by, a project of the Programme on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland, found that publics in 16 of the countries surveyed want their governments to focus more attention on climate change. Only four, however, thought their governments agreed.

Those who want their governments to prioritise climate change include respondents in the some of the largest greenhouse gas emitters - China, the U.S. and Russia.

The poll results come just five months ahead of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, which is to set the framework for a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012.

According to PIPA, an overall average of 60 percent of the nearly 19,000 respondents interviewed for the survey want climate change to become a higher priority for their governments than it is. The survey was conducted from April to early July.

Twelve percent favoured giving climate change a lower priority, while 18 percent believe that their government is giving it an appropriate priority.

'Many government leaders express worry that their publics are not really ready to absorb the hardships that would come with addressing climate change, but most people around the world appear to be impatient that their government is not doing enough to address the problem of climate change' said PIPA director Steven Kull in a press release.

Another survey of more than 26,000 respondents in released this week by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found large majorities in each of the 25 countries polled who considered global warming a 'serious' or 'very serious' problem. It also found that concern about changes in the global climate has increased in many of the countries since the same question was asked in 2008.

The Pew survey found that concern about global warming was lowest, however, among some of the largest greenhouse emitters. Only 44 percent of U.S. and Russian respondents said they considered the problem 'very serious', while only 30 percent of Chinese made that assessment, the lowest percentage of all of the nations surveyed.

By contrast, two-thirds of respondents in India, which, along with China, is one of the fastest-growing emitters of greenhouse gases, said they considered climate change to be a 'very serious problem'. Brazilian respondents expressed by far the greatest concern: nine out of 10 said they considered global warming to be a 'very serious problem'.

Sixty-two percent of the PIPA respondents in China said they wanted their government to do more to fight climate change. Fifty-two percent of U.S. respondents and 56 percent Russian respondents agreed.

However, the PIPA poll found that respondents from China recorded a mean of 7.31 out of 10 - meaning a high priority - when asked how much of a priority their government places on climate change. According to PIPA, 62 percent of Chinese want climate change to be a higher priority, despite the Pew findings on their belief of the seriousness of the problem.

The PIPA poll asked respondents to rank the level of priority given to climate change by their respective governments on a 0-10 scale, with 10 meaning a 'very high priority' and 0 meaning 'not a priority at all'. The average score for all respondents was 7.3.

Mexico (9.09), China (8.86), Turkey (8.34) and France (8.03) recorded the highest scores for prioritisation. The lowest was recorded in the U.S. with an average of 4.71, followed by the Palestinian Territories with 4.91, and Iraq with 5.14.

While most nations believe their government should give a higher priority to climate change - with majorities in Iraq, Kenya, Ukraine and the U.S. dissenting from that view - no nation had more than one in three respondents answering that climate change should be a lower priority.

About eight in 10 respondents in South Korea want climate change to be given a higher priority, marking the largest majority of all countries surveyed. Other large majorities include Mexico (79 percent), Great Britain (77 percent), Taiwan (77 percent), France (76 percent) and Nigeria (70 percent).

With 27 percent, Germany was the only nation where more than one in five respondents wanted the government to make climate change a lower priority. More than eight in 10 Germans believe their government has already made climate change a major priority.

Despite low percentages in the PIPA poll, the Pew survey found that six of 10 Germans believe global warming is a serious problem, and 77 percent believe that the government needs to protect the environment even if it causes slower economic growth and job loss.

While majorities in most countries say the environment should be a priority, even at the expense of economic growth, the Pew poll found less of a consensus regarding whether people should pay higher energy prices to deal with climate change.

Majorities or pluralities in 14 of the 25 nations - most of them in Europe and East Asia - agreed with the statement, 'People should be willing to pay higher prices in order to address global climate change.'

In 11 nations, however, majorities or pluralities disagreed. Opposition was especially strong in Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia, Argentina and Mexico.

© Inter Press Service (2009) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

Where next?