Newsbrief, TerraViva United Nations

New 40-Nation Survey Reinforces Risks of Climate Change

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 5 2015 (IPS) - A survey conducted in 40 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Western world has reinforced the lingering fear that climate change poses a serious challenge to humankind.

The results of the survey by the Pew Research Centre were released November 5 — three weeks ahead of a key climate change conference scheduled to take place in Paris November 30- December 11.

Majorities in all 40 nations polled say climate change is a serious problem and a global median of 54 percent consider it a very serious problem.

A median of 78 percent support the idea of their country limiting greenhouse gas emissions as part of an international agreement to be discussed at the upcoming Conference of Parties (COP21) in the French capital.

“The global consensus is that climate change is a serious challenge, not a distant threat,” said Richard Wike, Director of Global Attitudes Research.

“In fact, majorities in most of the nations surveyed say the world’s changing climate is either causing harm in people’s lives now or will cause harm to them in the near future.”

The survey found there is general agreement about what should be done to deal with global warming. As the Paris conference approaches, majorities in 39 nations say they support their country limiting its emissions as part of a climate accord.

Even in China and the United States, large majorities support an international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

A UN report released last year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that climate change, if left unchecked, will increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.

The so-called “Synthesis Report” confirmed that climate change is being registered around the world and warming of the climate system is unequivocal. Since the 1950s many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia.

“Our assessment finds that the atmosphere and oceans have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, sea level has risen and the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased to a level unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years,” said Thomas Stocker, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I, which participated in the compilation of the final report along with two other expert working groups.

The Pew survey points out significant regional differences on the perceived problems posed by global warming. “Worries are especially strong in Latin America and Africa. And Americans and Chinese, whose economies are responsible for the greatest annual CO2 emissions, are among the least concerned.”

In the U.S., 45 percent of people surveyed said global climate change is a very serious problem and 18 percent of people surveyed in China said the same. Across the nations surveyed, a median of 51 percent believe people are already being harmed by climate change and another 28 percent think people will be harmed in the next few years.

More than half of those polled in 39 of 40 countries are concerned it will cause harm to them personally during their lifetime, and a global median of 40 percent are very worried about this.

The key findings of the survey, conducted in 40 nations among 45,435 respondents from March 25 to May 27, 2015, include:

Climate Change Consequences: People worldwide are concerned about a variety of possible consequences of climate change, but drought tops the list. Drought is the most commonly named consequence (or tied for the most commonly named) in 31 countries, including the U.S., where 50 percent say this is the possible effect that concerns them most. Fears of drought are particularly prevalent in Latin America and Africa. In both regions, a median of 59 percent say this is their top concern.

Lifestyle Changes: According to most respondents, confronting climate change will entail more than just policy changes; it will also require significant changes in how people live. A global median of 67 percent say that to reduce the effects of climate change, people will have to make major changes in their lives. A median of just 22 percent believe technology can solve this problem without requiring major changes. Even in the U.S., a country known for its technological innovations, 66 percent believe people will need to significantly alter their lifestyles.

The Role of Wealthy Nations: In most countries, people tend to believe much of the burden for dealing with climate change should be shouldered by wealthier countries. Across the nations polled, a median of 54 percent agree with the statement “Rich countries, such as the U.S., Japan and Germany, should do more than developing countries because they have produced most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions so far.” A median of just 38 percent believe “Developing countries should do just as much as rich countries because they will produce most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions in the future.”

Country-specific Findings: A median of 51 percent of people across the countries surveyed believe people are already being harmed by climate change, but that figure varies widely by country. In Brazil, 90 percent of people surveyed agree, 59 percent of people in France, 49 percent in China, 42 percent in India, 41 percent in the U.S. and 31 percent in South Africa.

A median of 40 percent of those in the nations polled believe climate change will harm them in their lifetime. That figure was 78 percent in Brazil, 69 percent in India, 39 percent in South Africa, 35 percent in France, 30 percent in the U.S. and 15 percent in China.

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