A recent study by behavioral researchers at the University of Bonn, the Leibniz Institute for Financial Research SAFE in Frankfurt, and the University of Copenhagen demonstrates for the first time that a broad majority of the world’s population supports climate action and is willing to incur a personal cost to fight climate change.
The findings, published in the prestigious journal Nature Climate Change, are based on a globally representative survey conducted in 125 countries, involving approximately 130,000 individuals. According to the study, 69 percent of the world's population is willing to contribute one percent of their personal income to the fight against climate change – a significant contribution to climate action. An overwhelming majority of 86 percent endorses pro-climate social norms, and 89 percent call for increased political action. In countries particularly affected by global warming, the willingness to fight climate change is significantly higher. In countries with a high GDP per capita, the willingness is lower compared to other countries.
“The results are tremendously encouraging,” says Armin Falk, behavioral economist and professor of economics, who conducted the study with colleagues from the Universities of Bonn and Copenhagen and SAFE. “The world’s climate is a global public good, and its protection requires the cooperative effort of the world's population. We establish that a broad majority of the world's population supports climate action.”
“We also document widespread approval of pro-climate social norms in almost all countries,” says SAFE economist Peter Andre. According to the survey results, 86 percent of respondents believe that people in their country should try to fight global warming. “Moreover, there is an almost universal global demand that national governments should do more to fight climate change,” adds Peter Andre.
Willingness to act is systematically underestimated
Despite these encouraging statistics, the researchers also document that the willingness of fellow citizens to fight climate change is systematically underestimated in every single country. According to the study, the actual proportion of fellow citizens willing to contribute one percent of their income to climate action (69 percent) is underestimated by 26 percentage points globally. “Systematic misperceptions about other people’s willingness to take action against climate change can be an obstacle to the successful fight against climate change. People who systematically underestimate public support for climate action are often less willing to take action themselves,” says Armin Falk.
The results suggest a potentially effective strategy to further increase individual willingness to fight climate change. “Rather than echoing the concerns of a vocal minority who oppose any form of climate action, we need to effectively communicate that the vast majority of people around the world are willing to act on climate change and expect their national government to act,” the researchers write. “The current pessimism is discouraging and paralyzing. Our findings suggest that more optimism about climate action can unleash a positive dynamic,” adds Peter Andre.
The survey was conducted as part of the 2021/2022 Gallup World Poll. The countries included in the Global Climate Change Survey account for 96 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, 96 percent of global GDP and 92 percent of the world’s population. To ensure representativeness within countries, each country sample was randomly selected from the resident population aged 15 years and older. Interviews were conducted by telephone (in high-income countries) or in person (in low-income countries). Most country samples include approximately 1,000 respondents, and the total sample includes 129,902 individuals. To ensure comparability across countries and cultures, the survey was professionally translated and extensively tested. Find the project homepage with interactive maps and country rankings here.