- Less than half of people in 66 countries satisfied with protection efforts
- 48% in the U.S. are satisfied
- Strong majorities in China (89%) and India (78%) are satisfied
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In the remaining days of the COP27 climate summit in Egypt, nearly 200 nations are rushing to seek deals that keep climate goals alive.
If they fall short, it will likely disappoint but not surprise much of the world's population that is already unhappy with efforts to safeguard the environment.
In 66 out of 123 countries that Gallup surveyed in 2021 and 2022, less than half of people report being satisfied with their country's efforts to preserve the environment.
This list includes many, but not all, of the world's cumulative top emitters of carbon dioxide, which is linked to global warming. For example, while less than half of adults in one of the biggest emitters -- the U.S. -- are satisfied with their country's efforts to preserve the environment, strong majorities in other big emitters such as China (89%) and India (78%) are satisfied.
Events like COP27 bring together leaders to agree on policies and pledge future action for their country, but many past COP agreements have failed to turn into real action. For example, all attending countries agreed at last year's summit to set tougher climate targets in 2022, but so far, only about 30 have. Further, global CO2 emissions are projected to rise this year.
Against this backdrop, the world is as divided as its leaders and somewhat skeptical: A median of 49% of adults across the 123 countries surveyed are satisfied with their country's efforts to preserve the environment, and about as many -- 48% -- are dissatisfied.
United States' Climate History More Complicated Since the Paris Agreement
From 1750 to 2020, the U.S. is estimated to have emitted 417 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. The U.S. is the largest emitter of CO2 over that time span -- about twice that of the next highest country, China, at 236 billion tons. This cumulative measurement helps to show the long-standing environmental impact over time that different countries have had.
The agreement between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday to resume cooperating on climate change could help boost stymied negotiations at COP27. But how this agreement will be received at home remains to be seen.
Unlike in China, where a record-high 89% were satisfied with environmental efforts in 2021, the 48% of Americans who are satisfied in 2022 is more characteristic of the relatively lower satisfaction levels since the U.S. first agreed to join the Paris Agreement in 2015.
From 2006 to 2014, Americans' satisfaction with U.S. efforts to preserve the environment mostly remained between 50% and 60%. But since the U.S. joined the Paris Agreement (briefly leaving it under President Donald Trump in 2020 and returning under Biden), satisfaction has failed to crack 50%.
This back-and-forth in joining/withdrawing from/rejoining the Paris climate accord represents partisan polarization between worry about the environment and global warming in the U.S. This is echoed in U.S. perceptions of efforts to preserve the environment.
Approval of their country's leader did not factor into whether Americans were satisfied with their country's efforts to preserve the environment in 2015 and 2016, with President Barack Obama in office. This changed between 2017 and 2020, under Trump, when there was about a 50-percentage-point difference in satisfaction with efforts to preserve the environment between those who approved and those who disapproved of Trump's overall job performance.
While environmental satisfaction rates remained below 50% between 2017 and 2020, adults who approved of Trump were between 47 and 57 points more satisfied with efforts to preserve the environment than individuals who did not approve of the job Trump was doing. This flipped in 2021 when Biden took office. Those who approved of Biden were 16 points less likely to be satisfied than those who disapproved. These divides largely disappeared in 2022.
At the opening of the COP27 climate summit, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated the stakes of reaching a deal on climate change: "We are in the fight of our lives -- and we are losing."
While it appears from the breadth of public dissatisfaction worldwide with their country's environmental stewardship that many would agree with this statement, just as many are satisfied with what their country is or is not doing. Like their leaders, the people of the world remain largely divided on efforts to preserve the environment.
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For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.
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