It’s official – the majority of us believe climate change is a global emergency

A survey of 1.2 million people has found two-thirds of people think climate change is a global emergency.

The Peoples’ Climate Vote, conducted by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), is the largest survey of public opinion on climate change ever conducted and includes respondents of all genders, ages, and educational backgrounds, across 50 countries.

The UNDP partnered with the University of Oxford and a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in February 2020 to launch the Mission 1.5 campaign, to educate people about climate change solutions and ask their opinions on the priority actions that government should take to address the crisis.

The Peoples’ Climate Vote made up one of three pillars of the campaign, the other two being an online game and a learning website. The insights generated from the survey are intended to help governments deepen their understanding of public perceptions towards climate solutions and, in turn, ensure people feel they have a voice when it comes to making critical decisions on national policy.

Key findings of the survey

The results of the survey were collated and processed by analysts at the University of Oxford, who weighted the data to create representative estimates of public opinion. The margin of error of the results is, on average +/- 2%.

  • Even thought the survey was conducted during the global coronavirus pandemic, 64% of people said climate change was an emergency.
  • The highest level of support was in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) at 74%, followed by high-income countries at 72% then Least Developed Countries (LDCs) at 58%.
  • Of those who said climate change is a global emergency, 59% said that the world should do everything necessary and urgently in response.
  • The most popular policy for governments to act on urgently to address the climate emergency was conservation of forests and land, with 54% of public support. Followed closely by solar, wind and renewable power (53%); climate-friendly farming techniques (52%) and investing more in green businesses and jobs (50%).
  • Four of the five countries surveyed with the highest emissions from land-use change saw majority support for conserving forests and land, including Brazil (60%), Indonesia (57%) and Argentina (57%).
  • 76% of Australians surveyed backed renewable energy.
  • 73% of Brits surveyed asked for more investment in green businesses and jobs, and 72% believe companies should pay for pollution.
  • The largest difference in the level of support between two countries for a climate policy in the survey was keeping the ocean and waterways healthy. Support for this was 81% in the UK, compared with 29% in Iraq, highlighting the importance of nation-specific factors, such as being an island vs. landlocked.
  • Only 30% of those surveyed supported the promotion of plant-based diets, although the UNDP notes this could be due to indifference, rather than being against the policy.
  • The most profound socio-demographic driver of belief in the climate emergency and climate action is a person’s educational background.
  • In Australia, Canada and the United States, there was a difference of more than 10 percentage points between women and girls vs. men and boys when it came to a stronger belief in the climate emergency, with women and girls being more receptive to the idea. This ‘gender gap’ however was flipped in countries like Vietnam and Nigeria.
  • Nearly 70% of under-18s said climate change is a global emergency, compare to 65% of those aged 18-35, 66% aged 36-59 and 58% of those aged over 60.

You can download the full report here.

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Charli Ferrand

Charli wrote her first novel at the tender age of 9, then dabbled in the idea of becoming a professional ballerina for a few years, before returning to her love of writing, acquiring a BA (Hons) in Journalism, Film & Broadcast from Cardiff University in the UK. A three-month holiday in Australia turned into a 11 year residency, during which Charli cemented her career in PR & Marketing Communications working with some of the biggest brands in the world. She also gained her citizenship, discovered her passion for sustainability and eventually ended up coming full circle, combining her professional skills with her love of the planet and oceans into her role as Editor-in-Chief of Earth Collective. A trained journalist, experienced communications professional and qualified Mental Health First Aider, Charli has her finger on the pulse of the latest political and environmental developments around the world. You can find her writing about current affairs, political activism and mental health.

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