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How the World Grades Climate Actions

How the World Grades Climate Actions

Story Highlights

  • 46% of Americans are satisfied with efforts to preserve the environment
  • 30% of Brazilians are happy with safeguards

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Climate change will be one of the top priorities for most leaders gathering this week at the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. In fact, the United Nations convened a special Climate Action Summit on Monday, where many country leaders proposed their plans to halt rising global temperatures, achieve carbon neutrality and cut carbon emissions.

Quick Summary: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres challenged leaders who attended the summit on Monday to "come with concrete and transformative plans" to combat the "climate emergency."

Gallup's surveys worldwide show that at the global level, people give their leadership passing grades on their efforts so far to preserve the environment in their own countries. However, the global numbers mask a lot of frustration in different parts of the world, including in the U.S., Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

Global Satisfaction With Efforts to Preserve Environment Remains Elevated: Similar to what Gallup found in 2017, worldwide, more than six in 10 adults (62%) in 2018 said they were satisfied with efforts in their respective countries to preserve the environment -- which is on the higher end for ratings over the past decade.

Line graph. Global trend in satisfaction with efforts to preserve the environment.

However, satisfaction varies widely across the world. Satisfaction with efforts to preserve the environment remains relatively high in most of Asia -- particularly the South (73%) and Southeast Asia (78%) regions, where approximately three in four residents are satisfied. That figure falls to about four in 10 in Latin America and the Caribbean (40%), former Soviet states (39%), and the Middle East and North Africa region (42%).

Less Than Half of Americans Satisfied With Environment Efforts: While few Americans typically name climate change or the environment as a top problem facing the U.S., higher dissatisfaction with efforts to preserve the environment has been brewing since 2016.

After being expected to skip the event, U.S. President Donald Trump showed up unexpectedly to the Climate Action Summit. Throughout his presidency, and even in the last year of President Barack Obama's second term, Americans have given U.S. efforts in this arena a relatively poor grade. Less than half of Americans (46%) in 2018 said they are satisfied with efforts to preserve the environment -- which is on the low end for all Gallup measures since 2006.

Line graph. Trend in Americans’ satisfaction with efforts to preserve the environment.

Satisfaction Declines Ahead of Green Wave in Europe: Europeans have become increasingly supportive of public action to reduce humanity's toll on the environment and counter climate change, but the size of the "Green Wave" that swept the ballot boxes in many European nations was much larger than anyone expected.

However, if you look at this year's election results and compare them with people's satisfaction with their country's efforts to preserve the environment, dissatisfaction was clearly rising in many of the countries that had break-away Green Party success.

Dissatisfaction Levels from 2014 to 2018
Dissatisfaction level 2014 EU Election Green vote 2014 Dissatisfaction level 2018 EU Election Green Vote 2019
% % % %
Belgium 29 11 50 15
France 40 9 45 13
Germany 27 13 38 25
Ireland 24 N/A 34 11
United Kingdom 32 11 36 16
Gallup World Poll

Brazilians Least Satisfied in Amazon With Efforts to Protect the Environment: Brazilians' satisfaction with efforts to preserve the environment dropped to a new low of 30% in 2018, long before they saw massive expanses of the Amazon rainforest consumed by flame and deforestation this year.

Satisfaction With Efforts to Preserve the Environment Across the Amazon
Satisfied Dissatisfied
% %
Ecuador 58 38
Bolivia 53 43
Peru 45 50
Colombia 41 55
Venezuela 34 64
Brazil 30 66
Gallup World Poll, 2018

Residents in most countries with the Amazon rainforest within their borders are more dissatisfied than satisfied with efforts to preserve the environment in their countries. In fact, satisfaction with efforts rises to a majority in only two countries -- Ecuador and Bolivia -- although satisfaction there has been trending downward in the past several years. However, Brazilians stand out as the least satisfied of their regional neighbors.

Implications: While people in many parts of the world are satisfied with efforts to preserve the environment, leaders shouldn't take this as a given, and those who underestimate the public's engagement on this issue do so at their own political peril. Politicians learned this lesson in recent elections in Europe, where satisfaction with efforts to safeguard the environment was declining in many countries where the Green Party had the most success.

For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.

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