(New Haven, Connecticut) A global survey of Facebook users has found a significant gap in climate awareness between people in high-income countries and low-income countries. In a report entitled International Public Opinion on Climate Change: 2023, researchers with the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, international conservation organization Rare, and Data for Good at Meta found high levels of climate change awareness among respondents in the developed world, while more than half of respondents from multiple countries in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, Central America, the Middle East, and island states say they know little to nothing about climate change.
[Download the full survey report here.]
In 45 of the 110 countries, territories, and areas surveyed, over half of respondents say they know either “a lot” or “a moderate amount” about climate change. Respondents in Finland (89%), Hungary (85%), Austria (77%), and Germany (76%) are the most likely to say they know at least a moderate amount.
By contrast, in many areas, substantial percentages of respondents say they have “never heard of” climate change. Respondents in Benin and Haiti are the most likely to say they have never heard of it (both 36%).
Comparing world regions, respondents in Europe are most likely to say they know at least a moderate amount about climate change, with majorities in 27 out of 31 areas saying so. In contrast, respondents in
Sub-Saharan Africa are least likely, with no majorities saying so in any area.
“The results indicate there is still a critical need for basic climate change communication worldwide, especially in the world’s most vulnerable countries and populations,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, Director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.“
“Knowing your audience is key for addressing any behavioral challenge. These data are unique in their ability to help us understand in what ways people across the globe are similar and in what ways they are different in their knowledge and attitudes around climate change. As we explore the data, we will learn more about people’s motivations and barriers in adopting high impact climate behaviors, supporting evidence-based programs and policies to drive the large scale cultural changes needed for comprehensive climate mitigation,” said Dr. Erik Thulin, lead behavioral scientist with Rare’s Center for Behavior & the Environment.
This report describes climate change beliefs, attitudes, policy preferences, and behaviors among Facebook users in 187 countries and territories worldwide. The survey was fielded by Meta from August 3 – September 3, 2023, across their global platform of more than 3 billion monthly active users.
“We’re proud to partner with Yale and Rare on this global survey and hope these insights help researchers, advocacy organizations and policymakers in their work to increase awareness on climate change globally,” said Lu’chen Foster, Director of Social Impact Partnerships at Meta.
Consensus that Climate Change is Happening
While many in the Global South were initially unaware of climate change, once given a short definition, very large majorities in every location say it is happening. Respondents in El Salvador (94%), Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Armenia, Nicaragua (all 93%), and Puerto Rico, Mexico, and Colombia (all 92%) are the most likely to think climate change is happening.
Even in the places least likely to think climate change is happening, 7 in 10 people believe that it is. These countries were Haiti (64%); Australia and the Netherlands (both 70%); and Laos and Austria (both 71%).
Global Knowledge Gap of Climate Change Causes
Majorities in relatively few areas say climate change is mostly caused by human activities, with many people incorrectly saying it is caused equally by human activities and natural changes. Respondents in Portugal (61%), Spain (59%), and Finland (57%) are the most likely to understand that climate change is mostly caused by human activities, while respondents in Haiti (18%) and Indonesia (20%) are the least likely.
Latin America is Most Worried
Countries in Latin America are among the most worried about climate change. In Costa Rica and El Salvador, 92% of respondents say they are “very worried” or “somewhat worried” about climate change. Respondents in El Salvador (66%) are the most likely to say that climate change will harm them personally, while 61% say so in Mexico, Panama, and Colombia.
In El Salvador, 87% of respondents are also likely to say that climate change is “extremely” or “very” important to them personally, while 90% say that climate change should either be a “very high” or “high” priority for the government.
Respondents in Puerto Rico are also very concerned, with 93% saying they are “very worried or “somewhat worried” about climate change, 84% saying climate change will harm future generations “a great deal,” and 61% saying climate change will harm them personally “a great deal.”
Lack of Urgency in Europe
Several European nations including the Czech Republic and Finland (5%) and the Netherlands (7%) are among the least likely to believe they will be harmed personally by climate change. In the Netherlands, only 45% of respondents say they are worried or somewhat worried about climate change, and only 19% say climate change is extremely or very important to them personally.
“Respondents in wealthier areas generally do not perceive climate change as a personal risk, but rather see it as a greater threat to future generations or other parts of the world,” said Leiserowitz. “This is consistent with prior YPCCC studies finding that many people perceive climate change as a distant problem.
More Findings to Follow
The results released today are initial findings of the survey. The researchers will soon release findings related to public views on the links between climate change and extreme weather in the Global South, as well as public adoption of and barriers to behaviors that can reduce personal and household CO2 emissions in the Global North.
The full survey report can be downloaded here.
Rare is an international non-profit organization specializing in social change for people and the planet. For nearly 50 years, Rare has partnered with individuals, communities, and local leaders on the frontlines of conservation to promote the adoption of sustainable practices. With a behavior-based approach, Rare empowers individuals and communities to better manage and protect nature, on which all of us depend. Learn more at rare.org.
About the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication
The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) conducts scientific research on public climate change knowledge, attitudes, policy preferences, and behavior, and the underlying psychological, cultural, and political factors that influence them. YPCCC also engages the public in climate change science and solutions, in partnership with governments, media organizations, companies, and civil society, and with a daily, national radio program, Yale Climate Connections. Learn more at climatecommunication.yale.edu.
Meta builds technologies that help people connect, find communities, and grow businesses. When Facebook launched in 2004, it changed the way people connect. Apps like Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp further empowered billions around the world. Now, Meta is moving beyond 2D screens toward immersive experiences like augmented and virtual reality to help build the next evolution in social technology.