Eye Opener

Who Knows What

A new study compares climate change awareness around the world.

Illustration courtesy of Tien Ming Lee and Anthony Leiserowitz/Nature Climate Change


Climate change is going to affect us all (it’s called global warming for a reason), but public awareness of the risks—and even the existence of the issue—is not so universal. A new analysis of data collected from 119 countries in 2007 and 2008 for the Gallup World Poll found that worldwide, 40 percent of adults have never heard of climate change. In some developing countries, like Egypt, Bangladesh, and India, that number exceeds 65 percent—standing in sharp contrast to North America, Europe, and Japan, where more than 90 percent of the public is aware of climate change.

What makes people connect with our collective climate problem varies, too. For example, in the United States, people tend to be more aware of the risks we face if they understand the causes of climate change as well. (Spoiler alert: It's carbon emissions!) Meanwhile, in China, a knowledge of local air quality is one of the biggest precursors for climate concern. Messages on the issue, the researchers say, should be tailored for each nation's risk perception. But above all, education level remains the most import indicator of whether or not someone knows what's going down. (Spoiler alert: It's not global temperatures or sea levels.) 

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