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Developed and Developing Countries Agree: Action Needed on Global Warming

September 24, 2007

Full Report (PDF)
Questionnaire/Methodology (PDF)

Large majorities around the world believe that human activity causes global warming and that strong action must be taken, sooner rather than later, in developing as well as developed countries, according to a BBC World Service poll of 22,000 people in 21 countries.

An average of eight in ten (79%) say that "human activity, including industry and transportation, is a significant cause of climate change."

Nine out of ten say that action is necessary to address global warming. A substantial majority (65%) choose the strongest position, saying that "it is necessary to take major steps starting very soon."

The poll includes 14 of the 16 major economic powers invited by President Bush to Washington later this week (September 27-28) to discuss climate change and energy security. A key focus of discussion will be whether developing nations as well as developed countries should be required to limit their emissions of greenhouse gases.

The poll shows majority support (73% on average) in all but two countries polled for an agreement in which developing countries would limit their emissions in return for financial assistance and technology from developed countries.

The survey was conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan together with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland. GlobeScan coordinated fieldwork between May 29 and July 26, 2007.

Steven Kull, director of PIPA, said, "The public in developing as well as developed countries agree that action on climate change is necessary."

BBCClimate_Sep07_graph2.jpgGlobeScan President Doug Miller added, "The strength of these findings makes it difficult to imagine a more supportive public opinion environment for national leaders to commit to climate action."

Other Highlights

In no country does more than one in three disagree with the view that "human activity, including industry and transportation, is a significant cause of climate change." In all except one country, two-thirds or more endorse this view. The one exception is India where 47 percent attribute climate change to human activity, 21 percent disagree and 33 percent do not answer.

In 13 of 21 countries, at least twice as many call for "major steps starting very soon" as think "modest steps over the coming years" will suffice. In no country does a majority say that no steps are necessary and on average less than one in ten say this.

A key growing economy with a large majority in favor of significant action is China. Seventy percent of urban Chinese respondents believe major steps are needed quickly to address climate change.

There is a widespread consensus that developing countries should take action on climate along with developed countries. Just three countries opt instead for the position that less-wealthy countries should not be expected to limit emissions: Egypt, Nigeria and Italy.

Asked how much they have heard about climate change or global warming, seven in ten overall say that they have heard a great deal (35%) or some (35%). A majority in 16 countries -- including many developing countries -- say that they have heard at least something about the issue.

BBCClimate_Sep07_graph3.jpgIn only a few countries do large numbers say that they have heard little or nothing, including Indonesia (65%), Kenya (53%), Nigeria (48%), and Russia (64%).

Detailed Findings

The countries with the largest majorities favoring taking major steps on climate change are in Europe: Spain (91%), Italy (86%), and France (85%). Also overwhelmingly in favor of significant action are some Latin American countries: Mexico (83%), Chile (78%), and Brazil (76%).

Views are more mixed in six countries. Germans lean in favor of major steps (50%) rather than more modest measures (45%) as do Nigerians (50% to 27%). South Koreans are divided (48% major to 45% modest), as are Egyptians (43% to 43%), and Russians (44% modest to 43% major).

Indians favor major steps over modest ones by 37 percent to 26 percent. Only 12 percent say no steps are necessary, though large numbers do not answer (26%).

Not surprisingly, those who have heard more about climate change are more willing to take action. Among those who indicate they have heard nothing at all about global warming, only 47 percent support significant measures. That rises to 56 percent among those who say they have not heard very much, 66 percent among those who have heard some, and fully 74 percent among respondents who have heard "a great deal."

The poll then asked respondents whether they agreed with an argument made by some developing countries ("Because countries that are less wealthy produce relatively low emissions per person they should not be expected to limit their emissions of climate changing gases") or whether they favored a position advocated in some developed nations ("Because total emissions from less wealthy countries are substantial and growing these countries should limit their emissions of climate changing gases along with wealthy countries").

BBCClimate_Sep07_graph5.jpgIn 18 of the 21 countries polled, the more popular argument is that less wealthy countries should limit emissions (overall average 59%). Just three countries opt instead for the position that less wealthy countries should not be expected to limit emissions: Egypt (53%), Nigeria (50%), and Italy (49%).

Those favoring limits on the emissions of less wealthy countries include a 68 percent majority in China and a plurality of Indians (33% to 24%), though many Indians (43%) do not have an opinion. This is also the dominant view in Brazil (63%), Indonesia (54%), Kenya (64%), Mexico (75%), the Philippines (49%), and Turkey (41%).

In all but one of the developing countries polled, the weight of opinion is towards agreeing to limit greenhouse gas emissions in the context of a deal that requires the wealthy countries to provide aid and technology. The only country with a substantial minority opposing such a deal is Nigeria (46%). All of the developed countries polled endorse the idea by large margins including the United States (70%), Canada (84%), Great Britain (81%), France (78%), Germany (75%), and Australia (84%).

A total of 22,182 citizens in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, and the United States were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone between May 29 and July 26, 2007. Polling was conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan and its research partners in each country. In eight of the 21 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. The margin of error per country ranges from +/-2.4 to 3.5 percent.

For more details, please see the Questionnaire/Methodology (PDF)

To read more about attitudes in individual countries , click on the following links: Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, and North America.


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