Public Support For Strong Climate Change Action Is In Decline


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

4032 Public Support For Strong Climate Change Action Is In Decline
The support for strong action only has a majority in four countries. Ardn Drifte/Shutterstock

The United Nations Climate Change Conference is about to begin in Paris, and political leaders from across the world will gather in an attempt to reach a binding, effective agreement aimed at mitigating dangerous climate change. Unfortunately, a poll conducted by GlobeScan has revealed that the public support for such a deal is disappointingly low, with only four out of 20 countries being in favor of a strong deal, as reported by BBC News.

A similar poll taken before the doomed Copenhagen conference in 2009 showed that eight countries favored tough action, twice as many as do now. And this year, just over half of the those queried viewed climate change as a “very serious” problem, compared to 63 percent of people surveyed in 2009. The conference this year is being touted as a genuinely serious attempt at hammering out an effective deal, so this survey will no doubt pour cold water on many political leaders’ ambitions.


Image credit: Nations differ on whether they consider climate change to be a very serious issue or not. GlobeScan

This survey appears to go against the current grain. With some notable exceptions, many governments around the world have recently been flouting their green credentials. All the Scandinavian countries are initiating a huge drive in renewable energy production, Morocco is pioneering a new 24/7 solar power plant, and other organizations are heavily advertising their carbon capture technologies. The International Energy Agency recently concluded that over a quarter of the world will be powered by renewables by the end of the decade – an unexpectedly high proportion.

In total, 1,000 people were surveyed from each of the 20 countries at the beginning of this year. Not only has the general support for acknowledging climate change as a serious problem declined dramatically in many of the richer nations, but the support for an effective deal at the Paris conference has only grown in three of the 20 countries.

The only four with majorities in favor of their own governments taking a leading role in reaching an agreement are Canada (53 percent), France (54 percent), the United Kingdom (52 percent) and Spain (57 percent). Considering that many U.S. cities will be underwater in the not-too-distant future, it is somewhat paradoxical that only 45 percent of Americans polled in the survey support strong action.


Time is running out, and fast. Sangoiri/Shutterstock

Across all 20 nations, an average of just 43 percent wish for their government to play a leadership role at the conference, compared to 40 percent who want their government only to take a moderate role in support of a deal with only gradual action against dangerous climate change. Lionel Bellier, from GlobeScan, told BBC News that the change from 2009 to now was “not an abrupt change of views, the trend seems to be now towards a softer approach.”

The pollsters hypothesize that the financial crisis of 2008 has had an effect on the public perception of the importance of dealing with climate change; many began to prioritize economic success as being more important than environmental issues, particularly in developing countries. China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, only has 18 percent for strong action – it has recently seen its economy suffer, which has likely dampened public support for action against climate change.

“When we look at the broad range of environmental issues, they all have gone down in terms of concern, in all countries, since 2009,” added Bellier, “at the same time you see that concerns about the economy have risen, and what's capturing the agenda is terrorism, which has risen up the agenda over the last two years.”


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