WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Residents in the top five greenhouse gas-emitting countries are no more aware of global warming or climate change than they were a few years ago. Majorities in all five countries Gallup surveyed in 2010 -- except India -- continue to say they know at least something about the issue.
Over the past several years, international leaders have unsuccessfully tried to hash out a climate deal before the Kyoto protocol expires in 2012. Meetings later this year are not expected to result in a new deal. Japan, Russia, and the U.S. recently confirmed they would not join a new Kyoto agreement and China and India contend that developed nations should act first.
Japan's decision not to support the protocol's extension stems from concern about the lack of binding targets for the U.S., China, and India, not from a lack of Japanese concern about climate change. Nearly all Japanese adults (98%) surveyed before the March tsunami and nuclear crisis in 2011 said they know at least something about climate change. Most perceive global warming as a serious personal threat (77%) and attribute it at least partly to human factors (88%).
Although the U.S. never signed on to the Kyoto protocol, like the Japanese, most Americans (96%) are aware of global warming and climate change. While their knowledge level has not changed in the past few years, the threat Americans feel from global warming has dissipated. Fifty-five percent of Americans who are aware of climate change view it as a serious personal threat, down from 64% in 2007 and 2008. They are also now less likely to attribute global warming to human causes, but half (50%) still at least partly blame humans.
Gallup surveyed residents of Russia in June and November 2010, before and after a record-breaking heat wave. Awareness of climate change remained moderately high among Russian adults, with more than 8 in 10 saying they know something about. After the heat wave, Russians who were aware of global warming were more likely to see it as a threat, with concern rising to match Americans' at 55%.
China rivals the U.S. for the top spot on the greenhouse gas emitters list, but fewer residents (65%) say they are aware of climate change. Chinese residents who are aware of climate change are significantly more likely than Americans to blame humans for global warming. While Chinese see humans as the culprits, the country stands out among all top emitters with slightly fewer than one in three (32%) respondents seeing it as a serious personal threat.
Indians continue to exhibit the lowest awareness of climate change of all the populations in top-emitting countries, with 37% of adults saying they know at least something about it. The lack of knowledge about global warming is partly attributable to lower awareness among the majority rural population (31%), but even in urban areas, awareness does not exceed 50%.
The vast majority of Indians who are aware of climate change perceive it as a personal threat, but they are increasingly likely to place at least part of the blame on humans.
With the future of the Kyoto protocol -- or any climate deal -- in jeopardy, leaders in these top-emitting nations should not lose sight that many of their residents are aware of climate change and that they feel seriously threatened by it. Residents in these countries may not necessarily agree about the severity of the risk or who is to blame, but previous Gallup surveys show they agree that developed and emerging nations should reduce emissions at the same time, rather than wait for one group to cut them first.
For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact SocialandEconomicAnalysis@gallup.com or call 202.715.3030.
Results are based on a nationally representative sample of adults, aged 15 and older, in each country. A total of 1,005 interviews were conducted in the United States, 1,000 interviews in Japan, 4,151 interviews in China, 6,000 interviews in India, and 4,000 interviews in Russia. For results based on the total sample in each country, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranges from ±1.7 percentage points to ±3.9 percentage points. 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.
For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.