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In Major Economies, Many See Threat From Climate Change

In Major Economies, Many See Threat From Climate Change

Awareness is high, except in Indonesia, India, South Africa

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Leaders from 17 major economies that account for roughly 80% of global emissions will engage in climate change talks Thursday on the sidelines of the Group of Eight (G8) summit in Italy. Nearly all of them represent nations where awareness of climate change is already high, except for Indonesia, India, and South Africa, where high percentages of residents have never heard of global warming or don't have an opinion.


Leaders from the G8 and those in the broader 17-member Major Economies Forum ([MEF] which U.S. President Barack Obama will lead Thursday) are using meetings this week to make progress toward some consensus ahead of the U.N. climate pact deal in December. However, before the G8 summit even began Wednesday, it appeared that leaders of developing nations had already dropped one major issue: targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In last-minute meetings Tuesday, MEF leaders had hoped to break the deadlock between developing nations and "rich" nations on the goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. But the group of top-polluting nations reportedly has removed the numerical target from Thursday's discussion after developing nations such as China and India apparently balked during negotiations..

Still on the table, however, for G8 and MEF leaders is the commitment to agree to keep average global temperatures from rising above what U.N. scientists see as a threshold for "dangerous climate changes." These climate changes could raise sea levels and trigger floods, drought, heat waves, and disease.

These more tangible near-term outcomes may have come to mind for respondents when Gallup asked those who know about global warming how serious a threat they believe it to be to their families. In many countries, including the United States, solid majorities of respondents who are aware of global warming perceive it as at least a somewhat serious threat to their families.


Bottom Line.

Majorities of citizens in many of the world's top greenhouse gas emitters are aware of global warming or climate change, and many who are familiar with global warming believe it poses a serious threat to their families. Climate change initiatives like those leaders are discussing at the G8 summit and MEF this week are likely a tougher sell in tight economic times, particularly among the relatively poorer and developing economies. But at the same time, those in nations with high poverty may unfortunately find themselves in a difficult situation -- in which they may be vulnerable if "dangerous climate changes" take place as scientists predict..

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted August 2007 in the United States, conducted July-October 2008 in South Africa, September 2008 in South Korea, June 2008 in the United Kingdom; with 2,019 adults in May 2008 in Russia, March 2008 in Indonesia, June 2008 in France, December 2008-January 2009 in Germany, July-August 2008 in Mexico, September-October 2008 in Brazil, August-September 2008 in Canada, May-June 2008 in Italy, May-June 2008 in Australia, December 2008 in Japan; with 4,343 adults, aged 15 and older, in September-November in China; and with 2,000 adults, aged 15 and older, in May-June 2008 in India..

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranged from a low of ±2.2 percentage points in China to a high of ±4.4 percentage points in South Africa.

The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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