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The Guardian/UK

Global Poll Finds 73% Want Higher Priority for Climate Change

Britons among the most enthusiastic about action to stop global warming, while Americans among least willing to put environment first, according to global public opinion poll

Suzanne Goldenberg

Residents walk down a road that leads to the county's power plant in Zhangjiakou, north-east China's Hebei province. (Photograph: STR/AFP)

A majority of peoples around the world want their governments to put action on climate change at the top of the political agenda, a new global public opinion poll suggests.

Unfortunately for Barack Obama though, who has put energy reform at the top of his White House to-do list, Americans are not necessarily among them.

Only 44% of Americans thought climate change should be a major preoccupation for the Obama administration, the survey co-ordinated by the University of Maryland's Programme on International Policy Attitudes said. The only other two countries unwilling to see their governments make climate change a top focus were Iraq and the Palestinian territories. In 15 other countries though there was strong support for governments to do more to deal with climate change.

Britons were among the most enthusiastic supporters for greater government intervention, with 77% urging officials to do more. Germans, however, think their government has already done enough. Some 83% think their government has already adopted climate change action as a top priority; 27% would like the government to turn its attention elsewhere.

"The public is pulling for more — a lot more, no, but a bit more, yes. There is definitely political capital there to move the ball forward and that is pretty much universal," said Steven Kull, the director of the survey which drew on data gathered by academic and marketing polling organisations in the respective countries. Overall about 73% of those polled believe governments should make climate change a top priority.

The poll, which sampled the opinions of 18,578 people in 19 countries, found broad popular support for making climate change a top priority extended even to those countries whose governments have yet to commit to global action. In China there was overwhelming support — 94% — for the government to keep climate change on the front burner. And in India, which is also rapidly emerging as one of the world's leading producers of global warming pollution, 59% of the public wanted their government to make climate change a top priority.

That defies the hard line taken by the country's environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, earlier this month against putting any cap on its greenhouse gas emissions.

Around the globe, the public was unconvinced their governments were assigning high enough priority to climate change. The disconnect suggests that there is greater public support for action on public change than elected officials realise, Kull said. "There is a tendency among policy makers to underestimate people's readiness for action."

Only four countries — Germany, Britain, China, and Indonesia — considered that their governments were focused on climate change. But, that did not necessarily satisfy the demand for even greater action.

Although the majority of Britons, 58%, credit the government with making climate change a major priority, even greater numbers, 89%, believe there is room for the government to do even more.

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