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Climate Change in the Brazilian Mind

In March 2022 we reported results from our latest nationally representative survey on Climate Change and Public Perception in Brazil, in partnership with the Institute for Technology & Society of Rio (ITS) and the Brazilian survey research firm IPEC. 

We found a strong consensus on climate change in Brazil: 96% of Brazilians said climate change is happening and 77% identified human activity as its primary cause. Likewise, most Brazilians (76%) said that most scientists think global warming is happening. By contrast, in our fall 2021 survey in the U.S., fewer Americans said global warming is happening (76%), is human-caused (60%), or that most scientists agree (59%).

Brazilian and American views: Is global warming happening, human caused, and is there a scientific consensus?

Nearly nine in ten Brazilians were either “very worried” (61%) or “somewhat worried” (26%) about global warming, rates much higher than in the US (35% and 35% respectively).

About eight in ten Brazilians (81%) said the issue of climate change is “very important”. Although the degree of importance varied somewhat by education, age, and political orientation, it was high among all groups. Politically, nearly nine out of ten (88%) left and center-leaning Brazilians said climate change is a very important issue. Among Brazilians leaning to the right of the political spectrum, 75% said the issue is very important. 

Climate change has been more acutely felt every year and is now a part of the everyday life of the Brazilian population. The impacts can be perceived in the increased cost of power, excess or lack of rainfall, air quality, and water rationing. The survey shows that the general public is concerned about climate change and forest fires. However, the environmental agenda has not been taken up by political actors yet, ahead of the 2022 elections, despite the salience of the issue for the Brazilian public.  Brazilians are very engaged in the issue of climate change, often more so than people in the United States. Issues such as climate change, the environment, and deforestation are not as politically polarized in Brazil as they are in the US.

Economy versus environment

When asked if protecting the environment is more important than economic growth, a majority of Brazilians (77%) said that protecting the environment is more important, even if this means lower economic growth and job creation. However, this percentage was slightly lower among specific segments of the population. For example, among Brazilians aged 55 or older, Brazilians whose formal education ended with the completion of elementary school, or politically right-leaning Brazilians, the figure was 69%.

Forest fires and the Amazon

The main source of greenhouse gas emissions in Brazil is forest degradation through deforestation and fires. The Brazilian population’s awareness is high: 87% of respondents said they have heard a lot about forest fires. In the Brazilian states with a higher incidence of fires, such as those in the Central West region, this rate reached 92%. When it comes specifically to fires in the Amazon, the public’s awareness was even higher: 98% of Brazilians said they had heard about the issue.

Politically left-leaning respondents were more likely to say human activity is the primary cause of fires in the Amazon (84%), compared to centrist (76%) and politically right-leaning (69%) respondents. A minority of right-leaning respondents, though relatively more than left-leaning or centrist respondents, attributed the Amazon fires to natural causes or both factors (human and natural).

Those respondents who said the fires in the Amazon are primarily caused by human activity were then asked to rank order who they thought is most responsible for starting them. Loggers were the most cited (37%), followed by farmers (18%), cattle and livestock ranchers (17%), politicians (12%), and prospectors (8%). Very few Brazilians blamed NGOs (1%) or indigenous people (1%) for the fires. 

 Who is most responsible for the fires in the Amazon?

 When asked who could best solve the problem of fires in the Amazon, Brazilians most cited governments (50%), citizens (21%), and companies and industries (13%).


Details on the survey: The survey was conducted from September 28 to November 1, 2021, with 2,600 participants 18 years or older from all regions of the country. The margin of error for the total sample is two percentage points, with a 95% confidence interval.