Be the first to hear about new surveys and studies.

Countries and Territories Most Affected by Climate Change Also More Likely to Believe it to Be Personally Harmful


As a member of the global youth climate strike movement, Fridays for Future, we often use the term “MAPA” (most affected people and areas) to refer to those most impacted by the climate crisis. MAPA includes countries, communities, and people that have been historically colonized or marginalized and now suffer environmental consequences. Within the United States, MAPA often corresponds with low-income communities of color who bear the brunt of environmental impacts including unhealthy drinking water, harmful air quality, and close proximity to power plants. When talking about countries, MAPA generally corresponds to the Global South, an area that, according to the Climate Impact Lab, stands to lose the most lives, property, and economic wealth at the hands of climate change. Out of 31 countries and territories surveyed in YPCCC and Facebook’s recent International Public Opinion on Climate Change survey, those in areas that are more likely to be affected by climate change are also more likely to believe that climate change will be personally harmful.

The 2020 Environmental Performance Index (Figure 1), produced by the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, ranks each country on its environmental performance and thus potential for climate resiliency. Industrialized countries with a high GDP rise to the top of the list, while nations that fall to the bottom have less money to invest in climate adaptation and mitigation, leading to a weak and uneven government sustainability performance. Figure 1 illustrates that countries with low EPI scores often correspond to the Global South, or MAPA.

Figure 1, Environmental Performance Index (EPI). Countries with darker colors have higher ranking EPI scores (greater potential for climate resiliency). The index ranges from 22.6 to 82.5.

When the EPI is compared with YPCCC’s recent International Public Opinion on Climate Change Survey, those in areas with lower EPI rankings (higher risk) also are more likely to think that climate change will be personally harmful. Within the 31 countries and territories surveyed by YPCCC, 14 fall above the 50 top-performing EPI nations, and 17 fall below. Figure 2 compares each surveyed country or territory’s EPI ranking on the vertical axis with the percentage of individuals in that country that believe climate change will harm them “a great deal.” The countries with EPI rankings above #50 are displayed in blue, and countries falling below #50 are depicted in red (more saturated points indicate a relatively higher or lower EPI ranking).

Figure 2, YPCCC International Public Opinion on Climate Change Report 2021 vs. Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy 2020 Environmental Performance Index.

Within the 14 blue, high EPI countries (non-MAPA):

  • On average, 57% of respondents believe that climate change will harm them personally (a great deal or a moderate amount).
  • Only an average of 22% believe that climate change will impact them “a great deal.”

In the 17 red, low EPI countries and territories (MAPA):

  • On average, 65% of respondents believe that climate change will harm them personally (a great deal or a moderate amount). This is an 8% difference compared to non-MAPA respondents.
  • An average of 39% believe that climate change will impact them “a great deal.” This is nearly twice the amount of non-MAPA people who believe the same.

In the 16 countries and territories that perceive the greatest personal harm (Figure 2), 12 out of 16, or 75%, are MAPA, while in the 16 countries and territories that perceive the least, only 5 out of 13, or 38% are MAPA. The top 7 countries and territories that believe that climate change will harm them a great deal are all MAPA.

The results of YPCCC’s survey show that those in MAPA who are most vulnerable to the climate crisis seem to understand that they are more likely to be affected. However, respondents in wealthier, Global North nations are less likely to worry that they will be impacted. This mentality is potentially harmful as politics and policy are often influenced by public opinion. If fewer people in wealthier countries believe that climate change will personally harm them, there may be less pressure on their countries to pass legislation to invest in climate change. Yet, the EPI data suggests this is not the case; countries in Europe like Denmark are demonstrated leaders in climate action and renewable energy innovation. Unfortunately, many MAPA countries that perceive more personal harm from climate change also have fewer resources to combat it. It could be that the extent of action that a country takes on climate is tied more closely to its available resources than to the public opinion of its citizens. Solving climate change requires the world to work collaboratively; MAPA countries have public support for action but need financial and technical support to invest in climate adaptation and mitigation. As global warming becomes more extreme and wealthier nations continue to take more action, global climate justice becomes even more essential. As Angela Davis said, we must “lift as we climb.” In the case of climate justice, we must lift up MAPA nations on the road to a healthy and just world.

 

Data source: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1IqragfBCWaxplgPAjK7CQJQnCDXel3X3niSNWn0aDoQ/edit?usp=sharing