The U.S. leads the world in number of people who aren’t convinced climate change and other environmental concerns are disasters in the making, according to a new poll released this week. This comes after the 2014 National Climate Assessment stated that climate change is happening now, and that the primary driver is “unequivocally” human emissions.
The poll, conducted by U.K. research organization Ipsos MORI, was conducted in 20 countries across the globe, and gathered feedback from over 16,000 people. The poll asked eight climate change and environment-related questions.
When asked the question, “To what extent do you agree or disagree? We are heading for environmental disaster unless we change our habits quickly,” only 57.3% of the respondents in the U.S. said that they agree. Of the countries surveyed, the U.S. came in last in the number of respondents who agreed with that statement.
China, which has been the leading emitter of carbon dioxide according to the Environmental Protection Agency, had the most number of respondents agree with the statement that the world is heading for a disaster. The Unites States is the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide, and comes in 13th in energy efficiency, according to a scorecard released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
Air quality issues in China might have played a role in these results. The smog problem is notoriously bad in the country, and could be in the forefront of peoples’ minds as they answer questions about the environment. The U.S., on the other hand, has seen a marked improvement in air quality since the mid-20th century, when some regions’ pollution rivaled China’s current levels.
In another survey question, respondents were asked if they agree that the climate change we are currently seeing is largely the result of human activity. 54% of U.S. respondents said that they agree — the lowest agreement ratio of the 20 countries polled. In China, 93% agree that human activity is to blame.
In America, climate change often seems to boil down to party lines. The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication suggests there is a way to communicate the scientific consensus without triggering political polarization. They offer the solution of “using short, simple, declarative sentences or simple pie charts” when communicating the science to the public. They also note that while metaphors and analogies can be proven successful, it’s important to remember that “simple, sticky messages” are most effective.
(Update, 5:55 p.m.: The headline was modified to clarify the referenced poll queried attitudes about environment broadly, rather than just climate change)