Affirmation that climate change is a serious problem is most prevalent in Latin America and Africa, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.
The Pew report, released a month prior to the December United Nations’ conference on climate change (known as COP21), revealed “a global consensus that climate change is a significant challenge,” with a majority in all 40 nations polled affirming this view.
When asked whether climate change was a very serious problem, 74 percent of respondents from Latin America agreed, followed by Africa (61 percent), Europe (54 percent, the Asia/Pacific region (45 percent) and the Middle East (38 percent).
At 45 percent, the U.S. was nine points below the global median, while only 18 percent of respondents in China affirmed this perspective.
Questions regarding perception about when climate change would impact respondents’ lives revealed that many see it as an immediate threat.
“Across the nations surveyed, a median of 51 percent believe people are already being harmed by climate change and another 28 percent think people will be harmed in the next few years,” Pew reported.
Survey participants also were asked to indicate the issues related to climate change that most concerned them.
Droughts or water shortages topped the list in every region: 59 percent (Latin America and Africa), 50 percent (U.S.), 41 percent (Asia/Pacific), 38 percent (Middle East) and 35 percent (Europe), for a global average of 44 percent.
Severe weather was second with a 25 percent global average, followed by longer periods of unusually hot weather (14 percent) and rising sea levels (6 percent).
In addition to responses varying by geographic region, political affiliation and religious tradition also influenced participants’ answers.
In the U.S., global climate change was affirmed as a very serious problem by 68 percent of Democrats, 41 percent of independents and 20 percent of Republicans.
Roman Catholics (39 percent) were the most likely faith tradition to affirm this position, compared to 27 percent of the religiously unaffiliated and 26 percent of Protestants.
The report highlighted a similar political and religious influence on responses in Australia, Canada, Germany and the U.K.
Pew also asked survey participants to indicate their support of (or opposition to) their government agreeing to international limits on greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change.
The median global response was 78 percent affirming the statement: “Our country should limit greenhouse gas emissions as part of an international agreement.”
Pew commented: “When it comes to climate change, publics around the world generally adopt the precautionary principle: Even when in doubt, act out of prudence. In 37 of 40 nations surveyed, willingness to curb emissions that may contribute to warming the planet exceeds intense concern about climate change.”
In addition to government action, a global median of 67 percent said significant personal lifestyle changes would be required to effectively address climate change.
The full report is available here.