Between 2007 and 2008, Gallup conducted the first comprehensive survey of global opinions about climate change, posing two questions to respondents in 128 countries: 1) How much do you know about global warming or climate change? and 2) How serious of a threat is global warming to you and your family?
The following is excerpted from "A Heated Debate: Global Attitudes Toward Climate Change," which appears in the Fall issue of Harvard International Review on newsstands now.
Gallup finds that a majority of the world's adult population is aware of the climate change issue, but a substantial minority is not aware. Further, those who are aware are more likely to say climate change poses a serious threat to themselves and their families. Results vary by region and among each of the top five green house gas-emitting countries, underscoring the challenges leaders face in reaching a global climate agreement.
Regionally, people in Europe and the Americas (which includes North, South, and Central America) are the most likely to be aware of climate change. More than 8 in 10 adults in Europe and the Americas say they know at least something about climate change. In addition, these two regions have the greatest percentage of adults who report knowing a great deal about the issue.
Lower awareness is evident in the Middle East/North Africa, Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa regions. Slightly more than half of adults in the Middle East/North Africa and Asia regions report basic awareness of climate change. Awareness is lowest among adults in sub-Saharan Africa, where 44% of adults report knowing at least something about the issue.
Perceived Threat Relatively Low in Most Vulnerable Regions
Adults in Asia are the least likely of all to say climate change is a serious threat; less than a third, 32%, perceive the threat this way. Adults in the Americas and Europe are most likely to be aware of climate change and perceive it as a very or somewhat serious threat to themselves and their families.
In sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and the Middle East/North Africa regions, where populations are more likely to be vulnerable to the effects of climate change, the perceived threat is nonetheless relatively low and far more subdued than in the Americas or Europe. This can be attributed to lower awareness and lower likelihood of concluding that global warming will have serious consequences.
According to the polls, 36% of adults in sub-Saharan Africa are aware of climate change and perceive it as a serious threat to themselves and their families. As a whole, the region has the lowest carbon emissions in the world, yet some experts believe its people will likely suffer most from climate change.
For results for all 128 countries, see the table in the "Top-Emitting Countries Differ on Climate Change Threat" story.
For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact email@example.com or call 202.715.3030.
A total of 206,193 interviews was conducted across 128 countries in 2007 and 2008. A nationally representative sample of the civilian, non-institutionalized, adult population aged 15 and older was interviewed in each country, either in person or by telephone. The coverage area is the entire country including rural areas; exceptions include areas where the safety of interviewing staff is threatened and scarcely populated islands in some countries. Interviews are stratified by population size and or geography and clustering is achieved through one or more stages of sampling. Country-level data are weighted to the 2008 World Bank population estimates (aged 15 and older) to derive the regional and worldwide summary figures in this article.
Results for the question on awareness of climate change are based on 40,526 interviews in the Americas, 60,807 interviews in Asia, 45,648 interviews in Europe, 19,812 interviews in the Middle East/North Africa, and 39,400 interviews in sub-Saharan Africa. Respondents who say they know a great deal or something about climate change are considered "aware" of climate change.
The question about the perceived threat that global warming poses was asked of respondents who say they know a great deal or something about climate change. Results reported are projected to the entire adult population.
Region-level percentages reported here have a margin of error of less than ±1 percentage point.