Thursday, February 11, 2010

Global attitudes toward climate change

The 2010 World Bank Development Report focuses on Climate Change. As part of the background material for the report, the World Bank recently released Public Attitudes Toward Climate Change: Findings from a Multi-Country Poll.

The poll provides information from 15 different countries (US, Japan, France, Russia, Iran, China, India, Mexico and a mix of African and Asian developing countries) across a number of different dimensions:

Dimension 1: Level of concern
  • Seriousness of climate change as a problem
  • Climate change as a priority
  • Effects of climate change on one’s country
  • Timing of impacts
Dimension 2: Beliefs about climate change
  • Belief about the status of climate change science
  • Trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions
  • Impact of climate change on wealthy vs. poor countries
  • Responsibility and government action
Dimension 3: Attitudes toward international climate change cooperation
  • Effect of one country’s example on others
  • Willingness to commit to emissions cuts in the context of an agreement
  • National responsibility in the absence of an agreement
Dimension 4: Willingness to bear economic costs to support national actions
  • Necessity of higher energy costs
  • Willingness to pay a specified individual amount
  • Willingness to support national steps with economic costs
  • Assisting poor countries with adaptation to climate change
Unfortunately, Canada wasn't included. However, the US stands out for the consistency of its views: broadly speaking, the polls show
  1. the US public as a whole to be less concerned
  2. the US public to be more questioning of the scientific basis of climate change and to believe that, left alone, things will get better. While the vast majority (82%) of Americans think the government has a responsibility to act, the US has a larger percent (17%) advocating no action than any country except Russia and Mexico.
  3. In relation to cooperation, Americans don't see themselves as a climate change leader as they don't believe that action by the US will lead to action by other countries. Moreover, fully a quarter don't see the US as having any responsibility unless there is a global agreement.
  4. the citizens of the US are among the least willing to pay to mitigate the impact of climate change -- either in direct costs to themselves or through the indirect cost of support to other countries.

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