Recent Global Opinion Survey on Climate Change

On November 7, 2015 the Pew Research Center published the results of a global public opinion poll concerning climate change.   It is based on more than 45,000 face-to-face and telephone interviews in 40 countries carried out during the period March 25 through May 27, 2015.

One of the questions asked during the interviews was,

In your view, is global climate change a very serious problem, somewhat serious, not too serious or not a problem?

Majorities in all 40 nations polled said that climate change was a serious problem.  Moreover, when the data from all 40 nations was combined, a global median of 54% consider it to be a very serious problem. There are, however, significant regional differences.  Somewhat surprisingly, Chinese and Americans, whose economies are responsible for the greatest annual emissions, are among the least concerned.

Within the US, 45% of those surveyed stated that they believe climate change to be a very serious problem, 29% believe it to be somewhat serious, 13% believe that it is not too serious and 12% believe that it is not a problem.

Another question that was asked during the interviews was;

Countries from around the world will meet in December in Paris to deal with global climate change. They will discuss an agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions, such as from burning coal or gas. Do you support or oppose your country limiting its greenhouse gas emissions as part of such an agreement?

 A global median of 78% answered this question affirmatively.  Within the US, 69% of those polled supported an agreement limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

Sadly, the Pew report noted that views about climate change divide sharply along partisan lines in a number of countries.  This was especially true in the US where only 20% of Republicans believe that climate change is a serious problem while 68% of Democrats hold this view.

Several other questions were asked on various aspects of climate change, including the following:

 Will people have to make major changes in the way theylive to reduce the effects of global climate change or can technology solve the problem without requiring major changes?

A global median of 67% said that major lifestyle changes will be required while 22% believe that technology alone will solve the problem.

The complete report can be downloaded from the Pew Research Center web site: “Global Concern about Climate Change, Broad Support for Limiting Emissions

OUR PERSPECTIVE:  It is comforting on one level to see that after almost three decades of focus on climate change by the scientific community that the world at large is beginning to accept the fact that climate change does indeed pose a serious threat.  What is less comforting is the degree to which climate change is still perceived to be a political issue and not a purely scientific one.   It is far easier for a “liberal” to view climate change as a serious problem than it is for a “conservative”.  The scientific reality is that climate change brought about by the burning of fossil fuels is far more than a “very serious problem”, it is an existential threat to our modern industrial society and perhaps even to our species.  Climate change is not simply one of many “very serious” problems it is the defining problem of the 21st century.  We either find a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a near-zero level by the end of this century or our civilization will not survive the 22nd century.