Gallup surveys, which were held in 111 countries in 2010, find that Americans and Europeans feel substantially less threatened by climate change than they did a few years ago, while more Latin Americans and sub-Saharan Africans see themselves at risk.
The 42% of adults worldwide who see global warming as a threat to themselves and their families in 2010 has not budged in the last few years, but increases and declines evident in some regions reflect the divisions on climate change between the developed and developing world, according to Gallup.
Majorities in developed countries that are key participants in the global climate debate continue to view global warming as a serious threat, but their concern is more subdued than it was in 2007-2008. In the U.S., a slim majority (53%) currently sees it as a serious personal threat, down from 63% in previous years.
Concern about global warming has also declined across western, southern and eastern Europe, and in several cases, even more precipitously than in the U.S. In France, for example, the percentage saying global warming is a serious threat fell from 75% in 2007-2008 to 59% in 2010.
In the U.K., ground zero for the scandal known as Climategate in 2009, the percentage dropped from 69% to 57% in the same period.
World residents' declining concern about climate change may reflect increasing skepticism about global warming after Climategate and the lack of progress toward global climate policy, according to Gallup. The drops also may reflect the poor economic times, during which Gallup research generally finds environmental issues become less important.
Latin Americans, who already were among the most aware of climate change and the most likely to view global warming as a personal threat, became even more aware and more concerned in 2010. Seventy-seven percent of Latin Americans claim to know at least something about climate change, and nearly as many see it as a personal threat (73%).
These relatively high figures among Latin Americans may be partly attributable to the bad rainy seasons and flooding that leaders in the region, such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, have linked to global warming, according to Gallup.
In sub-Saharan Africa, where populations are likely to be vulnerable to the effects of climate change, awareness is still among the lowest in the world, but was up in 2010. Nearly half of the adult population in the region (46%) say they are aware of climate change, up from 38% in 2007-2008.