Saturday, December 6, 2014

Climate action priorities of the populace

Sou | 4:36 PM Go to the first of 4 comments. Add a comment

Wondering Willis Eschenbach is delighted (archived here) that over the whole world, action on climate change is considered the lowest of sixteen priorities. He was talking about the "My World" internet survey that I wrote about a couple of months ago. Willis is late to the party. He's behind his rival Bob Tisdale, who wrote about it in September this year at WUWT.

The oddity in all this is that Willis spends so much of his time protesting climate change and climate action. He spends a lot of time writing pseudo-science for a blog that is devoted to rejecting climate science and protesting any action to mitigate climate change. At the same time he reckons that nobody thinks that climate change is important. Perhaps he needs to re-think his own priorities.

The lowest ranking of climate action isn't unexpected. Other social, economic and environmental issues are of more immediate concern to many people worldwide. Plus, as I pointed out before, you are only asked to list your top six priorities not all sixteen. And you aren't able to rank those six in any order. Over all 6,653,039 responses so far, the top six priorities are:
  • A good education
  • Better health care
  • Better job opportunities
  • An honest and responsive government
  • Affordable and nutritious food
  • Protection against crime and violence

By far the biggest response came from Mexico followed, weirdly, by Nigeria. Mexicans ranked climate action 12th followed by reliable energy at home. Their top three priorities were jobs, education and health care. 

Nigeria, which is "low" on the human development index (HDI), ranked climate action last. Their top three priorities were the same as those from Mexico but in a different order: education, health care and jobs.

There were very few responses (118) from people in Niger, one of the poorest nations in the world. Climate action was ranked 8th out of 16, well ahead of reliable energy at home (13th).

India had the third highest number of responses. Interestingly, they rated climate action second last, ahead of reliable energy. Bangladesh didn't have a high response rate with only 24,249 responses. Those that did respond rated climate action 12th out of sixteen, with reliable energy at home last. I guess people without electricity couldn't do the survey - and maybe those who've now got solar power are pleased with it. Pakistan, with the fourth highest number of responses, rated reliable energy second overall, just ahead of education - with few listing climate action in one of the top six priorities (rated last). A higher proportion of people from Yemen (low HDI) listed climate action as a priority, though it still came in last on their list. Reliable energy isn't a big problem for respondents in Yemen, either - coming in third last.

The Philippines had a reasonably high response rate. Respondents listed climate action 12th out of sixteen, with reliable energy listed 10th overall. Those with post-secondary education listed climate action 10th overall, with educated women listing it as ninth overall.

There were very few responses from China (only 18,212 so far).  Climate action ranked 11th out of 16 overall, with women having post-secondary education ranking it 9th. Reliable energy ranked 15th out of 16.

What's interesting and what you won't read in Willis' article is what is important to people in his country, the USA. Overall, US people have fingered the following in their top six:
  • A good education
  • An honest and responsive government
  • Affordable and nutritious food
  • Access to clean water and sanitation
  • Better health care
  • Freedom from discrimination and persecution

In the USA, climate action is ranked only 10th out of 16 priorities, ranking  it lower than Senegal (9th), Singapore (8th), Canada (8th), Northern Europe (7th), Australia (7th), Western Europe (6th) and equal to the Solomon Islands (10th).

Since Willis and Bob were trying to make out that people don't care about climate action, there are two demographic groups in the USA that include it in the top six priorities, older and educated men and women:
  • US men over 61 years of age who have had beyond secondary education (ranked 5th)
  • Women over 61 years of age of all education levels, with most respondents having beyond secondary education (ranked 5th)

In Australia, climate change ranks 7th overall out of 16 choices. Here is a breakdown by sex and education where climate action is in the top six priorities:

Australian men 
  • 16-30 of all education levels (ranked 5th)
  • 16-30 who only finished primary education (ranked 5th) 
  • 16-30 who only finished secondary education (ranked 5th) 
  • 16-30 who went beyond secondary education (ranked 5th)
  • 31-45 of all education levels (ranked 6th)
Australian women
  • of all ages of all education levels, dominated by women who've had beyond secondary education (ranked 6th)
  • 31-45 of all education levels (ranked 5th)
  • 31-45 who have finished secondary education (ranked 6th)
  • 31-45 who have gone beyond secondary education (ranked 5th)
  • 46-60 of all education levels (ranked 4th)
  • 46-60  who have finished secondary education (ranked 6th)
  • 46-60  who have gone beyond secondary education (ranked 3rd)
  • over 61 who have gone beyond secondary education (ranked 4th)

You can play with the responses here on the My World website. And if you want to list your priorities, you can do so here.

The survey is just an internet survey with a limited number of choices (16 plus you can add your own). You can only list six choices and you can't rank them in any order. The only check is that it picks up your country from your IP address. Not only that but you can vote multiple times, so I don't consider it reliable. Still, from the perspective of climate, it does give a bit of an idea of where to pitch information so that is might yield most benefits. And so far there are 6,653,039 responses, which is a huge sample.


  1. No surprise here in the UK: the overwhelming majority of people around me live planet destroying lifestyles. No distant is too short to make using their cars necessary: and there's a fair number of youths whose lifestyle is like a particularly moronic episode of Top Gear.

    I was about 13 years old when I became aware that the kids around me were mostly mindless little pricks. At the time I thought it was just immaturity: I know now that their defect of character is more severe and its permanent.

    If there's a funny side to this, we are told their favourite poem is Rudyard Kiplings's IF.

  2. In Western Europe, action on climate is the 6th most important issue. In Canada it is 8th, US10th. UK 9th. Ireland 9th. Australia is 7th. All of this suggests that those societies that are the most open and best informed scientifically view climate change as a reasonably important priority, if possibly remote.

    However, as Sou says, the poll comes with a health warning.

  3. Here is a Pew Research Center survey from 2013 according to which climate change was considered a major threat by the largest amount of people from 39 countries.

    1. I can see a difference in the polls in that the internet has several concerns related to the environment (food, energy, rivers, forests, health, climate) while the Pew poll has one overarching concern: climate change. It suggests that when respondents see their concerns split into many facets, the votes split too.


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