New Pew Poll Shows Rising Global Concern Over Climate and Environment

Graphic by Annabel Driussi for Our Daily Planet

In its annual survey of attitudes about climate change and environmental issues in countries around the world, the Pew Research Center concluded that across the board, half or more of the people surveyed consider climate change to be a very serious problem.  Public concern about climate change is up since 2015 in the places where Pew has the data to compare. And by a wide margin across the globe, the public believes their national governments are not taking sufficient actions to address climate change. Finally, most people regardless of where they live, believe that environmental protection is more important than job creation — and nearly everywhere it was preferred by a 2:1 margin.

Why This Matters:  While some (Fox News, e.g.) might want you to think that protecting the environment and fighting climate change are in opposition to job creation and economic growth.  But the public is not buying the false choice — anywhere.  Even if it was a choice, interestingly, the publics choose fighting climate and protecting the environment by an overwhelming margin. That is true in countries no matter where they are across the globe, and regardless of whether the country is rich or poor, the pro-environment views are consistent.  Which should make developing the political will to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions easier — in theory.

Five Key Takeaways From the Survey

  1.  People Are Experiencing Climate Change:  “A median of 70% across the 20 publics surveyed say they are experiencing a great deal or some effects of climate change in the area where they live. Italians and Spaniards stand out.”  For example, 86% of Italians say climate change is affecting the area where they live at least some, including 55% who think climate change is having a “great deal” of influence.
  2. Majorities Believe Government Is Not Doing Enough About It: “majorities across most of these publics believe their national government is doing too little to address climate change. A 20-public median of 58% say their national government is doing too little, compared with a median of 27% who say their government is doing about the right amount.”  It is especially true where people say they are seeing the greatest climate impacts, like in Italy where only 14% thought the government is doing enough.
  3. The Percentage of People Who Think Climate Change Is Serious Is Rising:  “the share saying climate change is a very serious problem rose in 12 of 15 publics where a comparison is available. In five European countries – Italy, France, Spain, the UK and Poland – the percentage of those who think climate change is a very serious problem has grown by about 20 or more percentage points over roughly five years.”
  4. People’s Views Are Greatly Influenced By Their Political Beliefs Especially in the US:  “those on the left are more inclined than those on the right to see climate change as a serious problem and to think their government is doing too little to address it.  Ideological divides in the U.S. are larger than in any other public surveyed.”
  5. Large Majorities See Environmental Problems In Their Communities and Would Prefer Conservation To Job Creation If Forced To Choose: “large majorities classify a range of environmental issues as a big problem where they live. Majorities in 18 out of 20 survey publics see pollution of rivers, lakes and oceans as a big problem (20-public median of 78%).”  At the same time, a median of 71% across all publics “would prioritize environmental protection, while a quarter would prioritize job creation.”

To Go Deeper:  See all the poll results here.


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