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Indians Largely Unaware of Climate Change

Indians Largely Unaware of Climate Change

by Julie Ray and Anita Pugliese

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Although India has emerged as a key player in global climate negotiations, the average Indian remains unaware of climate change. A Gallup survey conducted shortly before the Copenhagen summit last month shows 32% of Indians say they know at least something about climate change, similar to awareness in previous years.


In the other countries that helped broker the Copenhagen Accord in December along with India -- Brazil, South Africa, China, and the United States -- awareness of climate change varies but in each case is significantly higher than that in India. After India, South Africans are the least likely to say they know something or a great deal about climate change.


While India has one of the fastest expanding economies in the world, citizens' relatively low awareness about climate change reflects the country's still largely agrarian, rural, and poor makeup. Urban Indians, who tend to be better educated, are significantly more likely to report being aware of climate change. Forty-one percent of adults in urban India know at least something about climate change, compared with 28% in rural India -- where more than two-thirds of the population lives.

Indians Say Developed and Emerging Countries Should Reduce Emissions

India is one of the top greenhouse gas emitters in the world, but it has resisted mandatory emissions caps throughout climate negotiations. The country's leadership maintains that these caps could potentially curb the emerging economy's growth and that developed countries should shoulder the burden.

Overall, Indians' views on who should cut emissions first -- developed countries or fast-growing economies like theirs -- are similar to those of their counterparts in Brazil, China, and the United States (Gallup did not ask the question in South Africa). Indians who are aware of climate change are more likely to say developed economies such as the U.S., Germany, and Japan, and fast-emerging economies such as China, India, and Brazil, should reduce emissions at the same time than say one group should reduce emissions first.


Indians, however, are more like Americans than Brazilians or the Chinese in that they are just as likely to say fast-growing economies should act first (14%) as they are to say developed economies should act first (13%)

Indians Divided on Government's Efforts to Reduce Emissions

Gallup data reveal a key difference between Indians and their partners in the BASIC group (Brazil, South Africa, India, and China). While Brazilians, South Africans, and Chinese tend to grade their respective government's efforts to reduce emissions as insufficient, Indians who are aware of climate change are split on whether their government is doing enough (42%) or not (40%).


Bottom Line

After meeting with the other three countries in the BASIC group this weekend, India is expected to submit its formal climate change action plan to meet the Jan. 31 Copenhagen Accord deadline. India, along with the other BASIC countries, has emerged as a major player in climate negotiations, but Gallup data indicate that a minority of Indians are aware of climate change. However, the views of Indians who are aware are much like those of their counterparts in these three countries in regard to whether developed countries or emerging countries should act first on emissions. Unlike their counterparts in those countries, Indians are far more divided about whether their government is doing enough to reduce emissions, but a sizable 40% still believe their government is not doing enough.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face and telephone interviews with adults, aged 15 and older, in Brazil, China, India, South Africa, and the United States. The following table shows the margins of error for each total national adult sample; margins of error for subsamples (including those who are aware of climate change) are larger. 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.

2009 Survey Dates

Sample Size

Margin of Error


Aug 11-Sep 1


+ 3.3


Aug 14-Sep 28




Oct 1-Nov 30


+ 2.6

South Africa

Mar 21-Apr 7


+ 4.0

United States

May 5-Jul 8


+ 3.8

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