Public worldwide wants action on climate change: poll

Most people worldwide believe climate change is a very serious problem that their governments must tackle, a poll said Monday, as the landmark Copenhagen summit on the issue was set to get under way.

However the poll of more than 24,000 people also showed concern about rising global temperatures from man-made emissions has dropped in the United States and China - the world's two biggest polluters.

Sixty-four percent of people think climate change is a "very serious" problem, up from 44 percent of those polled in 1998, according to the GlobeScan survey conducted for Britain's BBC World Service.

"The poll shows strong worldwide support for action on climate change, in spite of the recession," GlobeScan chairman Doug Miller said.

"However, the mixed opinions in the United States and China suggest leadership in Copenhagen may need to come from others," he said.

Despite the global economic downturn, 61 percent worldwide support government investment to address the issue, even if it meant that it harmed their national economy, the poll conducted in 23 countries said.

In the US and China, the largest emitters of carbon dioxide, support for government action is high, with 89 percent in communist China and 52 percent in the US.

But serious concern for the issue in these countries has fallen from 50 percent in the US in 2007 to 45 percent this year, and from 59 percent to 57 percent in China - both below the worldwide average.

Concern in rising power India is also below average at 45 percent, along with Australia (58 percent), where legislation on a carbon-trading scheme has twice been rejected in parliament.

The poll comes as talks in Copenhagen are set to start Monday, gathering 192 nations under the flag of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Its task is to craft a global pact that will dramatically reduce carbon dioxide emissions - invisible gases that trap solar heat and warm the atmosphere, interfering with Earth's delicate climate system.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon voiced optimism Sunday that the crunch talks would lead to binding limits for harmful emissions, but experts warn of major stumbling blocks as countries wrangle over the burden-sharing.

According to the poll, 44 percent of people - and majorities in 10 of the 23 countries polled - want their government to "play a leading role in setting ambitious targets to address climate change" in Copenhagen.

Some 39 percent think their government should "adopt a more moderate approach and support only gradual action."

And six percent want their government to oppose any agreement.

Support for government action is relatively high in Europe, including 62 percent in Britain, 57 percent in France and 55 percent in Germany.

Canada (61 percent), Australia, (57 percent), Japan (also 57 percent) and Brazil (53 percent) also favour strong leadership on the issue.

In the US, 46 percent want strong action - outstripped by people wanting moderate action (36 percent) or opposition to any agreement (14 percent).

The poll of 24,071 people was conducted between June 19 and October 13.