The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report last year expressing serious concerns about the possible impacts of climate change, both in the near and distant future. In 13 of 26 countries surveyed by Pew Research Center in the spring of 2018, people name climate change as the top international threat.
In 2013, before the Paris climate agreement was signed, a median of 56% across 23 countries surveyed said global climate change was a major threat to their country. That climbed to 63% in 2017, and in 2018 it stands at 67%. Since 2013, worries about the climate threat have increased in 13 of the countries. The biggest increases have been in France (up 29 percentage points) and Mexico (up 28 points), but there have been double-digit rises in the U.S., UK, Germany, Spain, Kenya, Canada, South Africa, and Poland as well.
There are ideological and partisan divides on the threat perceptions of climate change in Europe and North America. In the U.S., Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party are 56 percentage points less likely to believe that global climate change is a major threat to their country than are Democrats and those who lean toward the Democratic Party. Nine-in-ten (87%) among those on the left say global warming is a top concern, versus only 31% on the right who say this. While this partisan divide is substantial, it is not unique.
In nine of the 12 European and North American countries surveyed, those on the ideological left are more concerned about the threat of global climate change than those on the right. For instance, those with a favorable view of Alternative for Germany (AfD) are 28 percentage points less likely to say that climate change is a major threat to their country than those who do not support that party. Double-digit differences on this issue also appear between supporters and non-supporters of UKIP in the UK, National Front (now National Rally) in France, the Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands, and the Sweden Democrats in Sweden.
Among the three Latin American countries surveyed, global climate change continues to rank as the top concern. Eight-in-ten Mexicans say climate change is a major threat, marking an 8-percentage-point increase from 2017 and a 28-point increase since the question was first asked in 2013. Almost three-quarters of Argentines (73%) and Brazilians (72%) name climate change as a major threat.
Across the five Asia-Pacific countries surveyed, South Korea and Australia cited climate change as the top threat. In Kenya, where droughts and extreme weather events have negatively affected agriculture, the public feels most threatened by global climate change (71%). This is true across gender, age, income and education groups. For South Africans, roughly six-in-ten respondents (59%) name it as a major threat.
In seven countries, women are more concerned about climate change than are men. In Poland, 61% of women name it as a major threat, compared with 48% of men. There is also an education divide on the threat of climate change in European, North American, and Latin American countries surveyed, where those with more education are more inclined to say it is a threat than those with less education.
Roughly six-in-ten Americans (59%) say climate change is currently affecting their local community either a great deal or some, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
Some 31% of Americans say the effects of climate change are affecting them personally, while 28% say climate change is affecting their local community, but its effects are not impacting them in a personal way.
As is the case on many climate change questions, perceptions of whether and how much climate change is affecting local communities are tied with political party affiliation. About three-quarters of Democrats (76%) say climate change is affecting their local community, while roughly a third of Republicans say this (35%).
Americans who live near a coastline are more likely than those who live farther away to say climate change is affecting their local community.
Two-thirds of Americans who live within 25 miles of coastline (67%) say climate change is affecting their local community.
In contrast, half of those who live 300 miles or more from the coast say climate change is affecting their community. This difference exists among both Republicans and Democrats.
Forty-two percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who live within 25 miles of a coastline say climate change is affecting their local community, compared with 28% of Republicans who live 300 miles or more from the coast. And about eight-in-ten Democrats and Democratic leaners (81%) living within 25 miles of a coastline see a local impact from climate change, compared with 69% of Democrats living at least 300 miles inland.
Coastal communities are vulnerable to floods and storm surges with sea level rise. Americans who live near the coast are more likely than those in interior areas to say the effects of climate change are affecting them personally: 37% of those who live within 25 miles of a coastline say this, compared with 25% of those who live 300 or more miles inland.
When asked to describe climate change effects in their local community, people who live close to a coastline and people who live farther away tend to point to similar effects.
For example, 44% of those who live within 25 miles of coastline and 46% of those who live more than 300 miles away say climate change is currently affecting their community through weather and temperature changes.
Americans in coastal areas differ from those further inland in at least one other way: Those living within 25 miles of coastline are less likely than those living 300 or more miles away to favor expanding offshore drilling for oil and gas (33% vs. 42%). This difference reflects the fact that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to live within 25 miles of coastline since neither Democrats’ nor Republicans’ views of offshore drilling differ by the distance from the coast. A Pew Research Center survey found lower levels of support for more offshore drilling among those living within 25 miles of coastline.