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The majority of people around the world are concerned about climate change

Forty-one per cent of people globally sees climate change as a ‘very serious threat’ to their country, with 28 per cent being “somewhat concerned”.  This compares to 13 per cent who say climate change is not a threat at all, and nearly one in five people worldwide with no opinion or awareness of the issue. 

Although may people are aware of the risk, levels of scepticism and indifference are particularly high in the world’s biggest producers of climate changing emissions.

Climate change is an issue where peoples’ feelings about risk differ according to demographic variations. Age and gender have a small, but significant, impact on risk ratings. Younger people were more likely to rank climate change as a very serious threat to people in their country over the next 20 years, than older people (42 per cent of 15-29 year olds; 38 per cent of over-65s). Men generally viewed climate change less seriously than women. While men and women were about as likely to believe climate change represents a very serious threat (40 per cent men; 42 per cent women), older men were more likely than older women to say that climate change is not a threat at all (17 per cent of men over 65; 12 per cent women).

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This is the first time that people’s perceptions of climate change risks have been researched globally.  The findings show how belief in and understanding of, climate change risk varies greatly and depends on many complex factors. We commissioned our poll to help policy makers understand at a micro level, how people think about climate change and how it affects them.  The results show that the message about climate change is heard quite differently around the world. We hope policy makers can use our data and design interventions that will be effective in their particular countries and regions.

Professor Richard Clegg
Chief Executive, Lloyd’s Register Foundation

Experience of harm from extreme weather events influences views of climate change risk

Globally, the poll found that 22 per cent of people had experienced severe weather, and 53 per cent of these rate climate change as a very serious threat.

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Where a person lives also had a significant impact on their response. Some neighbouring countries had very different perspectives on climate change, and the poll findings suggest that other factors, such as education and politicization of the debate about climate change, may also be factors. In South Africa 59 per cent per cent of people thought climate change was a very serious risk, whereas in neighbouring Lesotho it was 78 per cent, Zimbabwe 59 per cent, Namibia 65 per cent, and Mozambique 40 per cent.

In southern European countries, the proportion of people who think that climate change is a very serious threat is much higher than many of the northern countries in the region. Spain, Portugal and Greece are all above 80 per cent, Cyprus 77 per cent, Italy 67 per cent and Malta 60 per cent. France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland all had much lower percentages of people who think it is a serious threat, though concern in Austria, the UK and Ireland is high on this measure. 

How much of a threat is Climate change?

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It matters that we have these conversations about risk with our communities. For example, in our community the rainfall patterns have changed so we need to plant different crops that grow quicker and adapt to these new conditions.

Bernard Okebe
Community Empowerment and Media Initiative, Kenya

The world's biggest polluters worry less about climate change

Some of the world’s largest economies stand out for their relatively high levels of scepticism.  

Global figures: 41% Very serious threat, 13% Not a threat, 28% Somewhat serious, 18% Dont know.

The world’s biggest polluters-USA

In the USA, which is the second biggest carbon emitter in the world, 21 per cent of people see climate change as “not a threat at all”. The USA has the highest percentage of climate change sceptics among high income countries.

The world’s biggest polluters-USA

People in China, which is the world largest producer of carbon, are also less concerned about climate change, with just 23 per cent seeing it as a very serious threat, compared with 29 per cent who have no opinion and 12 per cent who feel climate change is not a threat.

The world’s biggest polluters-India

Levels of doubt in India, the world’s third biggest carbon emitter, are similar to America, with 19 per cent denying that climate change is a risk.

The countries recording the highest levels of no opinion about climate change as a risk are Laos at 54 per cent, Nepal at 46 per cent and Cambodia at 42 per cent.

Pam Knox

Even in our region of southeast USA, different farmers experience risks differently. It matters whether they own the land or rent it, what crops they are planting, the geography of where they are and even their values. For some what matters is to make the most yield out of that year’s crop, for others the biggest fear is losing their land.

Pam Knox
Agricultural climatologist, USA

Countries that worry the most about climate change

People across the world who said they saw climate change as a very serious threat to their country in the next 20 years. (% of each country’s population)

When we have storm winds, you see we are living in the shacks so the wind when it is too strong it takes off our shacks. If my neighbor’s shack has went away with the wind, we wake up and go help them.

Mpho, Johannesburg, South Africa
World Risk Poll respondent

It’s something very powerful, emotionally and physically, it was a big loss economically, you lose everything. It’s the powerlessness of watching the water rising inside your house and you can’t do anything. You watch the water rising, how it’s flooding everything, and you just have to wait.

Joel, Puebla, Mexico
World Risk Poll respondent