BBC World Service survey on climate change attitudes

September 27, 2007 at 6:59 am | Posted in BBC World Service, Climate change, Global warming, GlobeScan, PIPA, Polls, Public attitudes, Surveys, Worldwide | 9 Comments

All Countries Need to Take
Major Steps on Climate Change: Global Poll

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 Climate change: global 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 Climate change: global 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 Climate change: global 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.”

GlobeScan 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.”

Participating Countries

BBC World Service survey on public attitudes to climate change image 0

Note: In Brazil, Chile, China, Egypt, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, and Turkey an urban sample was used. Please see page 22 of the PDF for further details.

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 favour 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.

In 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 favouring taking major steps on climate change are in Europe: Spain (91%), Italy (86%), and France (85%). Also overwhelmingly in favour 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 favour 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).

BBC World Service survey on public attitudes to climate change image 1

Indians favour 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 favoured 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”).

In 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 favouring limits on the emissions of less wealthy countries include some of the key ones, most notably 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%).

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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 Methodology section in the PDF or visit or

Contacts (see Climate change: global poll)

Questionnaire (see Climate change: global poll)

Country-by-Country Results

BBC World Service survey on public attitudes to climate change image 3

BBC World Service survey on public attitudes to climate change image 4

BBC World Service survey on public attitudes to climate change image 5

BBC World Service survey on public attitudes to climate change image 6

BBC World Service survey on public attitudes to climate change image 7

See Climate change: global poll for more details, including text descriptions of all these charts.


  1. All the text in blue is copied verbatim from the PDF, but there are more details in the document itself. These diagrams and this text are worth sharing to a wider audience (who rarely read PDFs).

  2. […] full text of the BBC poll is available as a PDF file. Or you may read inel’s post for an HTML (web) […]

  3. Dear BBC people, your survey is excellent and if it is near of reality we have now a very valuable photography of which are feeling civil societies of the world. Unforunately, the political tendencies and attitudes, the economic monopolies, the ideological and religious beliefs, the hedonism and conusmerism are acting as anesthesics of these genuine feelings of the peple! Many thanks.

    p.d. I am a Mexican ecologist and philospher preparing a book on the humans as a endangered species

  4. I wish I’d known about the survey before this weeks Climate Watch season. So I can have told there are plenty of us who aren’t interest in the way they report it. And since we don’t have cars, children or houses we have a footprint a fraction of the average presenters.

    I’m sick of hearing about Climate Change in a very shallow way the BBC reports it

    I really wish they’d report numbers and perspective instead of jumping on a fashion bandwagon for blaming everything on Climate Change.

  5. Dear Victor,
    I am glad you found these statistics useful. I always find information easier to understand if it is presented visually as in the charts above.

  6. Dear Stew,

    I have an inkling of your concerns, after watching snippets of BBC news coverage on climate change this year. You do sound as if you have a much lower carbon footprint than many presenters, for whom flying may be the largest contribution to their own business footprints. It is hard for people to reduce the number of flights they do on business, and once one is used to flying every week on business (as I was, many years ago) it is really hard to break the habit. It seems normal, and then holiday flights seem to be insignificant compared to the business flights.
    Actually, my kids tell me when they think there is a programme worth seeing about climate change. They have not even noticed/remarked on BBC’s Climate Watch series, so I assume there is nothing noteworthy apart from David Attenborough’s excellent pair of films which we have seen before. In fact, he did another more recent programme with UKTV and I wrote about that here, but sadly it looks like that was not part of the BBC’s Climate Watch programming.
    These two BBC/Attenborough programmes originally aired in the UK in May 2006, and I wrote about Sir David’s commitment to our climate challenge here, and also watch embedded Google videos for Part I: Are We Changing Planet Earth? and Part II: Can We Save Planet Earth?

    P.S. I wonder when this two-part series (and the more up-to-date UKTV programme) will be broadcast in the United States? The 2-parter was produced jointly by BBC and Discovery Channel, but so far I am only aware of it being shown in the UK on the BBC, and more recently it was uploaded to videoDOTgoogleDOTcoDOTuk, and after that it was shown in Canada a couple of months back on CBC. One day I shall have to finish the CNN 2-part set that showed recently … tracking illegal sales of exotic animals did not start the story to keep me glued to my Mac the way David Attenborough programmes do, and the CNN production was not narrated in such a powerful way either …

  7. Blimey inel, that’s a fantastic break down and summary of the BBC World Service survey. It has some fascinating data. Some of the UK responses are surprising.

    Thanks for doing the post.

  8. Dear matt,
    We saw Mary Poppins recently, and I have to tell you, I think you are starting to sound like Bert! He was our favourite character on stage–much better than Dick Van Dyke, because he could speak like a true Londoner 😉
    Anyway I am just writing about this week’s BBC climate change project undertaken by Richard Black, so watch this space.
    [Update: here ’tis.]

  9. […] Enough from me. inel has done all the work already. Read here. […]

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