U.S. Has Highest Proportion of Climate Deniers, Survey of 28 Countries Finds

A majority of people across the world think climate change is happening and humans are at least partly responsible, according to a study from YouGov released on Monday. But 15 percent of Americans still hold views that contradict the scientific consensus that climate change is occurring and is being driven by human behavior.

Six percent of American respondents denied that the climate is changing, while an additional 9 percent said the climate is changing but human activity is not at all responsible. Americans surveyed held these denialist views more than people in the 27 other countries included in the study.

Saudi Arabia had the next-highest proportion of respondents who held views that contradicted climate science. Seven percent of Saudi respondents said the climate is changing but humans are not responsible, and 5 percent said the climate is not changing. Eight percent of Norwegian respondents said humans aren't responsible for changing temperatures, while 7 percent of Egyptians and 6 percent of respondents from both the UAE and Sweden held this view.

Recent reports have noted that, unless countries around the world drastically alter their emissions, climate change will lead to shortages of vital resources, cause displacement and fuel conflict. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has warned that South and Southeast Asian countries are most at risk from climate change, and that densely populated, low-lying cities will be particularly vulnerable.

Seventy-five percent of respondents in the Philippines and 74 percent in Vietnam said they thought climate change would have "a great deal of impact" on their lifestyles, while 19 percent from both countries said they thought it would have "a fair amount of impact." Similarly, 94 percent of respondents from Thailand indicated that climate change would have a "great deal" or "fair amount" of impact on their lifestyles.

Climate change is also expected to fuel resource scarcity and lead to uninhabitable conditions in the Middle East. At least 55 percent of respondents from some Middle Eastern countries surveyed—Qatar, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait—also said climate change would have a "great deal of impact" on their lifestyles.

In contrast, Spain was the European country with the highest proportion of residents who said global warming would greatly impact their life, with 32 percent holding this view. Only 10 percent of Danish respondents, the lowest proportion of surveyed countries, thought their lives would be greatly altered. An HSBC study last year said Finland, Sweden and Norway were among the countries that were least vulnerable to climate change.

climate protest
A girl holds a placard in Parliament Square on July 19 in London. Students left their classes for a march around central London to demand government action over climate change. Guy Smallman/Getty Images
This story is part of a Covering Climate Now project from the Columbia Journalism Review.