Two thirds of world population think climate change is a global emergency

Almost two thirds of people around the world – 64 percent of the world’s population – now view climate change as a global emergency that requires immediate action, according to a global poll which asked 1.2 million people from 50 countries covering more than half of the world’s population.

The poll, called ‘The Peoples’ Climate Vote’, was conducted in collaboration between the United Nations Development Fund, Oxford University and a number of non-governmental organisations.

Not surprisingly, the sentiment was strongest among young people: nearly 70 per cent of those under 18 said climate change is a global emergency, compared to about two-thirds of respondents between 18 and 60, and 58 per cent of those over 60.

People with more formal education tended to see climate change as more critical, regardless of the country in which they live.

Of the respondents who considered climate change an emergency, six out of 10 said governments should do all they can, urgently, to address the crisis.

The findings were described as “a tipping point in public attitudes,” and received widespread media attention.

Download the report (PDF, 68 pages 28.2 MB)

‘The Peoples’ Climate Vote’ is a pillar of the Mission 1.5 campaign launched in 2020 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to educate people about climate change solutions and ask them about the actions that they think governments should take. The aim of the Peoples’ Climate Vote was to connect the public to policymakers – and to provide the latter with reliable information on whether people considered climate change an emergency, and how they would like their countries to respond.

UNDP video about ‘The Peoples’ Climate Vote’ on Facebook

Signal to policymakers

The organisers of the study chose a novel method for gathering information, distributing the survey in 17 languages through game apps on mobile devices, and they acknowledge that the method did not result in a representative sample. Nevertheless, the organisers said, the response sends a signal to policymakers that citizens want their countries to take stronger action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The Peoples’ Climate Vote shows that there are many opportunities for governments to address climate change with the backing of the people,” the survey report said.

That message comes at a critical moment, as countries are expected to commit to more ambitious emissions-reduction targets by the United Nations annual climate summit COP26, scheduled in Glasgow, UK, in December this year.

So what would they like their governments to do?
In the poll, people were asked about their belief in the climate emergency and which policies, across six areas – energy, economy, transportation, farms and food, protecting people, and nature – that they would like their government to enact. Of a list of 18 areas that could be targeted for solutions, four climate policies emerged as the most popular globally:

1. Conservation of forests and land (54% public support);
2. Solar, wind and renewable power (53%);
3. Climate-friendly farming techniques (52%); and
4. Investing more in green businesses and jobs (50%).

Keeping oceans and waterways clean, reducing food waste, and making buildings more energy efficient followed on the list.

Regulating companies — making them pay for their pollution and provide more information to help consumers make climate-conscious purchasing decisions — received solid backing. And almost all the respondents in highly urbanised countries supported the use of clean transportation, such as electric vehicles and bicycles.

Promoting plant-based diets ranked lowest. Supporting local communities, indigenous people and women who are environmental stewards also drew little support.


“With this news story, it strikes me that those professional NGOs who still refuse to use the language of “climate emergency” — for reasons that seems rather esoteric — are now swimming against a very big tide!”
~ David Spratt, climate-policy analyst, director of Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration

“The survey brings the voice of the people to the forefront of the climate debate.”
~ Achim Steiner, administrator, United Nations Development Programme

“The study may not be rigorously scientific, but it provides some guideposts for both policymakers and climate advocacy groups.”
~ Barbara Fraser, NCR climate editor

Media coverage

→ UNDP – 26 Janunary 2021:
The Peoples’ Climate Vote
“With 1.2 million respondents, the Peoples’ Climate Vote is the largest survey of public opinion on climate change ever conducted. Using a new and unconventional approach to polling, results span 50 countries covering 56% of the world’s population.”

→ BBC News – 26 January 2021:
Climate change: Biggest global poll supports ‘global emergency’
“Despite the pandemic, almost two thirds of people around the world now view climate change as a global emergency.”

→ The Guardian – 27 January 2021:
UN global climate poll: ‘The people’s voice is clear – they want action’
“Biggest ever survey finds two-thirds of people think climate change is a global emergency.”

→ Forbes – 27 January 2021:
Most People See Climate As A ‘Global Emergency’ And Support Urgent Action, UN Survey Finds
“Marches and protests led by children and teens who have walked out of classrooms — often spearheaded by now well-known figures like Greta Thunberg and Vanessa Nakate — demanding action on climate change have highlighted young peoples’ attitudes to climate change. This poll shows that the generational gap is not as large as many had thought.”

Al Jazeera – 27 January 2021:
People’s Climate Vote: Majority sees climate change as emergency
“A cutting-edge survey used mobile gaming apps in 17 languages to ask 1.2 million people about their views on climate change.”

→ France24 – 27 January 2021:
Two-thirds of world see ‘climate emergency’: UN survey
“Nearly two-thirds of 1.2 million people polled worldwide say humanity faces a climate emergency, according to a UN survey, the largest of its kind ever undertaken.”

→ CNN – 29 January 2021:
Almost two-thirds of people believe climate change is a global emergency, UN poll finds
“Nearly two-thirds of respondents believe that climate change is a “global emergency,” according to a survey of 1.2 million people in dozens of countries around the globe — and many want urgent action to tackle the problem.”

Social media coverage