Center for Environmental Policy and Administration

Comparative Public Opinion and Knowledge on Global Climatic Change and the Kyoto Protocol: The U.S. versus the World?

Author:Steven R. Brechin
Date: October 2003
Publication:International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 23(10), pp. 106-134

Using a variety of public opinion polls over a number of years and from a number of countries this paper revisits the questions of crossnational public concern for global warming first examined over a decade ago. Although the scientific community today speaks out on global climatic change in essentially a unified voice concerning its anthropogenic causes and potential devastating impacts at the global level, it remains the case that many citizens of a number of nations still seem to harbor considerable uncertainties about the problem itself. Although it could be argued that there has been a slight improvement over the last decade in the public’s understanding regarding the anthropogenic causes of global warming, the people of all the nations studied remain largely uniformed about the problem. In a recent international study on knowledge about global warming, the citizens of Mexico led all fifteen countries surveyed in 2001 with just twenty-six percent of the survey respondents correctly identifying burning fossil fuels as the primary cause of global warming. The citizens of the U.S., among the most educated in the world, where somewhere in the middle of the pack, tied with the citizens of Brazil at fifteen percent, but slightly lower than Cubans. In response to President Bush’s withdrawal of the Kyoto Protocol in 1991, the U.S. public appears to be far more supportive of the action than the citizens of a number of European countries where there was considerable outrage about the decision
Center for Environmental Policy and Administration
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