Despite President Joe Biden’s efforts to make the United States a global climate leader, most people in the advanced world don’t think the United States is doing a good job on the issue, and China is doing even worse, according to a new poll from The Pew Research Center released broadcasts on Tuesday.
The survey, conducted among more than 18,000 people in 17 developed economies, offers detailed insight into concerns about the climate crisis. It comes as the US Congress debates a massive spending bill with provisions to cut fossil fuel emissions, and less than two months before the start of the UN-brokered climate talks in Glasgow.
Respondents expressed serious doubts that international climate efforts would effectively tackle the scale of the climate crisis – 52% of respondents were not convinced that a multilateral response would be successful , while 46% were optimistic that nations could respond by cooperating.
But the poll also suggested a growing awareness of the impacts of climate change, with 72% of those polled fearing that the climate crisis could harm them personally at some point in their lives. Additionally, 80% said they were ready to make personal sacrifices or change their behavior to cope with the crisis.
Jacob Poushter, associate director of research at Pew and one of the report’s authors, said that while concerns about the climate had increased since the center’s last survey in 2015, it was still a polarizing issue. in some parts of the advanced world.
“We have a trend, where there are a lot more people who are very concerned about the personal damage of climate change since 2015,” Poushter told CNN. “This is especially true in Germany, the UK, Australia and South Korea.”
“But there are quite significant ideological cleavages on a lot of these issues,” he added. “There is more polarization on this issue in the United States, and to some extent in Australia, than in many other countries we interviewed.”
The US portion of the survey was conducted in February, while respondents in the other 16 locations participated between mid-March and almost the end of May 2021. People were also surveyed in Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece. , Italy, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.
This was before extreme weather events over the summer hit much of the northern hemisphere in the form of heat waves, forest fires, hurricanes and flash floods. Although many respondents live in parts of the world where such events are increasingly common.
Who cares about the climate?
In terms of the personal impact of the climate crisis, Germany, the UK, Australia and South Korea recorded the largest increases in the number of respondents saying they were “very concerned” about the crisis, 2015 survey report.
Overall, South Koreans were most concerned about respondents ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ (88%), followed by Greece (87%), Spain (81%), Italy (80%), France (77%) and Germany (75%).
In Sweden, only 44% say they are “somewhat” or “very worried”, followed by the Netherlands (59%), the United States (60%) and Australia (64%).
In the United States, public views on the climate crisis have not changed significantly from the 2015 poll.
In contrast, Japan was the only place that saw a significant drop, 8 percentage points less, in the number of respondents “very concerned” about climate change. The decline comes as the country recorded its first cherry blossom season and has faced deadly floods and heat waves in recent years, which scientists say are due to warming temperatures.
Old vs young; women against men
According to the survey, young adults were generally more concerned than their older counterparts about the personal impact of warming temperatures on them. Sweden, home to prominent climate activist Greta Thunberg, arrived with the biggest generational gap, with 65% of 18-29 year-olds at least “somewhat concerned” about the climate crisis affecting them, 40 points of percentage more than adults 65 and over.
The United States, Canada, France, New Zealand and Australia have also seen a substantial age gap in public opinion regarding rapid global warming. But those over 65 in Greece and South Korea were more concerned than the younger age group.
“It’s nothing new to us that young people around the world are more concerned about climate change,” Poushter said.
“It’s the same when we asked the question of whether global climate change is a threat – and so it’s really a cohesive bond that we have.”
Women were also more concerned about the personal impacts of climate change than men in the audiences surveyed. In Germany, for example, 82% of women versus 69% of men expressed concern.
Public views on climate change have also declined across the political spectrum. Those on the left were more inclined to take personal measures to alleviate the crisis. The findings ring especially true in the United States, where 94% of people who identify with the left are more likely to change the way they live and work to save the planet.
Eri Yamasumi, climate strategy and policy specialist at the United Nations Development Program, said the survey results are consistent with those of a similar but larger survey she worked with the University of Oxford and published at the start of this year.
“The Pew Survey reaffirms that people see a high personal threat from climate change – not only in small island developing states, least developed countries and fragile contexts, but also in many places in North America , in Europe and Asia-Pacific, “Yamasumi, who was not involved in the Pew report, told CNN.
“Solving the climate crisis requires big changes and it is important to understand how the public sees these changes,” she added.
Individual action vs collective action
The report also revealed mixed views on a broader collective response to the crisis. Climate researchers have said that no single action can solve the scale of the problem, but rather governments should embark on bold global policies that hold industries accountable for their role in perpetuating the crisis.
Many respondents criticized the way the United States, which relies heavily on fossil fuels, has handled the climate crisis.
A median of 33% of those polled in the poll said the United States was doing a “good enough” job, while only 3% said it was doing a “very good” job. Among those polled in the United States, there is a little more confidence, with 39% of those polled saying that the country was doing a “good enough” job and 8% that it was doing a “very good” job. .
Much like the United States, China has also received critical figures in the polls, with 78% saying it is doing a “very bad” job in the face of global climate change. More than a month after the investigation, deadly floods caused by heavy rains killed hundreds of people in China’s Henan Province.
“Fewer are convinced that the international community can cope with climate change, especially when it comes to the views of the United States and China,” Poushter told CNN.
“There is a lot of doubt that these two countries, which are the two biggest emitters in the world, are doing a good job of fixing the problem.”
Unlike the United States and China – which are the world’s two largest economies and emitters of greenhouse gases – the European Union and the United Nations have generally received more positive reviews of their climate action.
The results come as tensions between the United States and China escalate ahead of COP26, when world leaders come together to fight a warming world and make tough commitments to achieve net zero carbon emissions. UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Friday urged the two countries to avoid any issues that hamper international climate negotiations.
And because the poll came before many climate change disasters this summer, Poushter said public opinion may have changed further since the poll. He also noted that the Covid-19 pandemic had limited the scope of the investigation.
“Unfortunately, it’s only among the types of advanced economies where we know phone polls are working because of the pandemic,” Poushter said.
“In a typical year, we would go to these other countries and have a broader view of how climate change and other issues are affecting people in the world’s most developing and emerging economies.”
As people around the world are increasingly exposed to the consequences of climate change, experts say public awareness of the impacts is needed. The state of the science report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that the planet is warming faster than scientists previously thought.
Significant and lasting reductions in emissions are needed during this decade to give Earth a chance to contain the global average temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, to avoid aggravate the impacts of climate change and exceed critical thresholds for many ecosystems.
“People see the climate crisis in their own backyards,” Yamasumi said. “Raising public awareness of the crisis is essential – both for education and to encourage all countries to take the bold steps necessary to ensure the security of people and the planet for generations to come. “
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