Public concern about climate change is at its highest level since GlobeScan began international tracking in 1998, according to a GlobeScan / BBC World Service poll conducted in 23 countries. Nearly two-thirds of respondents say climate change is a "very serious" problem, although concern has declined in China and the USA.
In 19 of the 23 countries, including all developed nations, there is majority support for government investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, public transport and other methods to address climate change, even if such investments harm the economy.
The exceptions are Pakistan, where only 19% would support such investments, the Philippines (32%), Indonesia (38%) and Turkey (49%). After China (89%), 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 poll shows strong worldwide support for action on climate change in spite of the recession,” says Doug Miller of GlobeScan. “However, the mixed opinions in the United States and China suggest leadership in Copenhagen may need to come from others.”
Public opinion in the world's two largest emitters of CO2 is ambivalent. While Chinese are most likely to support government investments even if there is economic harm (89%), only 52% of Americans feel the same way. The percentage of American (45%) and Chinese (57%) who see climate change as "very serious" is lower than the 23-country average of 64%.
Overall, there is strong support for governments taking an ambitious approach in climate negotiations, with 44%-plus majorities in 10 of the 23 countries polled wanting their government to play a leading role. A further 39% think their government should adopt a “more moderate approach” and support gradual action, while 6% want their government to oppose any agreement.
Majorities in most European countries support their government in a leadership role, with 62% in Britain, 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%).
The survey found that concern over climate change continues on an upward trend, even in a recession year. 13 of the countries in this year's survey have been polled regularly by GlobeScan over the last 11 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%.
The survey polled 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 in face-to-face interviews or by telephone between June and October. Polling was conducted for BBC World Service by GlobeScan, which says the margin of error per country ranges from +/-2.2 to 4.9%, 19 times out of 20.