According to a study, 69 percent of the world’s population say they are willing to spend one percent of their household income on climate protection every month. A team led by Armin Falk from the University of Bonn evaluated responses from almost 130,000 people aged 15 and over from 125 countries.

According to the study, 86 percent of respondents said that people in their country should try to do something about global warming. In 119 of the 125 countries, more than two thirds of respondents support this. 89 percent want their government to take stronger action against climate change. “Our results show broad support for climate action,” the group writes in the journal Nature Climate Change. People in countries particularly at risk from climate change showed a particularly high willingness to make a contribution to climate protection themselves.

Willingness of others underestimated

“Despite these encouraging numbers, we document that the world is in a state of pluralistic ignorance in which people worldwide systematically underestimate their fellow citizens’ willingness to act,” the researchers write. Although 69 percent said they would be willing to donate one percent for climate protection, on average all those surveyed believed that only 43 percent of their fellow human beings would. This pessimism about others’ support for climate action can discourage people from participating in climate action and thus confirm the negative beliefs of others, the researchers write.

The survey was carried out as part of the Gallup World Poll 2021 and 2022. The countries included are responsible for 96 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and have 92 percent of the world’s population.

Little willingness in the USA and Russia

There were big differences between countries in terms of the willingness to give one percent of household income to climate protection: at 40 to 49 percent of the population, the willingness was relatively low in the USA, Canada and Russia. At 60 to 69 percent, Germany, Poland, Brazil and India were in the middle. The willingness to give one percent was relatively high in China.

“Basically, the methodological implementation is very clean and good,” commented Christine Merk from the Institute for the World Economy (IfW) in Kiel on the study. The high approval ratings in Asian countries may be due to actual cultural differences in attitudes. However, they could also result from a greater tendency to answer affirmatively in surveys.

Actual willingness may be lower

The question of willingness to donate is also very hypothetical, said Merk. “And there is no reference to the amount that the respondents would have to pay every month, and especially with such simple questions, one has to assume that the willingness to make a contribution and the amount are overestimated.”

Julian Sagebiel from the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) in Leipzig sees things similarly: “On the one hand, the respondents have no incentive to answer truthfully.” On the other hand, it is not defined what fighting global warming means. “The study is nevertheless very valuable, carried out methodically cleanly and evaluated statistically correctly.” The results should give decision-makers something to think about. “However, they should under no circumstances be used to set budgets for climate protection,” emphasized Sagebiel. “Yes, people want to do something about climate change, but even after this study we still don’t know how much of their income they are really willing to give up.”

Necessary changes far more comprehensive

“Overall, the survey results give hope that world leaders and decision-makers could listen to the majority of the population and have more courage to implement strict policies and regulations to phase out fossil fuels and promote renewable energy,” concluded Ilona Otto from the University of Graz. “The willingness to contribute part of our income to combat climate change is of course a good signal, but in fact we need to be ready for profound social changes in our routines, behavior, social norms, as well as in politics and infrastructure.”