Press release

Brits largely unaware that climate change disproportionately affects black and brown people worldwide, new poll reveals

Only a third of British adults (33%) recognise that climate change disproportionately affects black and brown people across the world – a poll commissioned by Christian Aid has revealed – despite evidence that the poorest people in Africa, Asia, Latin America, along with small island states, are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis.

The research undertaken by Savanta ComRes for Christian Aid also found that just 26% of Brits believe that black, Asian and Arab people are hardest hit by the negative effects of climate change globally, such as droughts, floods, more intense storms, food insecurity and poor air quality.

A third of British adults (31%) say that they believe white people suffer most from the harmful consequences of climate change, and a similar proportion believe all ethnic groups are equally as vulnerable (28%).

Christian Aid commissioned the poll to measure public perceptions of the link between race and the climate crisis, at a time of increased focus on racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement. This comes as the international development charity prepares to launch a landmark study on how black British Christians view and engage with climate justice.

According to Christian Aid, these poll findings underscore the need for greater public awareness of the significant damage that the climate crisis already poses, and will increasingly pose, to people living in extreme poverty worldwide – the vast majority of whom are black and brown.

Patrick Watt, Christian Aid’s Director of Policy, Public Affairs and Campaigns, said: “The changes we have experienced in the UK’s weather, with more flooding, a very dry spring and now some exceptionally high temperatures is a useful reminder that climate change is a global phenomenon that affects us all. But while many people here celebrate the hotter temperatures, we can’t ignore the fact that millions of people around the world are already suffering from extreme climate-related weather events.

“The poll findings suggest that most people in the UK are unaware of the impacts of climate change in poorer countries, and are perhaps more preoccupied with the effects being felt closer to home. One reason for this may be that the climate crisis in poorer countries is less visible in the media than the situation in places like Australia where their terrible bush fires dominated UK headlines for many days. Yet evidence clearly shows those who suffer most acutely from the damaging effects of climate change live in the poorest countries, and within those countries in the poorest communities.1 

"These are places with majority black and brown populations, and with limited resources to cope. Often the worst effects of the climate crisis reflect and entrench existing inequality. Be it indigenous communities in Brazil, rural families in Bangladesh, or pastoralists in northern Kenya, they’re on the frontline of more frequent or intense droughts, floods, storms, failed harvests and food shortages. Yet they have done least to contribute to the climate crisis. It is deeply unjust."

Patrick Watt added: "At a time when the movement for racial justice is challenging us to create a just and equal society – both at home and globally – we want to see greater levels of awareness and understanding among the British public, and in our institutions, of the inextricable links between climate change, poverty, and race and ethnicity.”

The Savanta ComRes poll found that a third of British adults (33%) believe the UK’s climate change movement is not racially diverse. Those who are concerned about climate change are significantly more likely than those who are not to agree that the UK's climate change movement is not racially diverse (41% vs 23%). The same is true of those who are concerned about racism and racial inequality (43% vs 27%).

This month Christian Aid is launching a landmark study into the attitudes, experiences and perspectives of black British Christians in relation to climate justice. The study, to be conducted by Savanta ComRes during July and August will explore the drivers and barriers that black Christians face when engaging with the climate justice movement.

Sarah-Jane Nii Adjei, Christian Aid’s Climate Justice Church Programme Manager, said: “We are inviting black Christians across Britain to take part in this research, so that together we can ensure the climate justice movement is truly diverse and genuinely reflects – and responds to – the lived experiences of people who shoulder the climate crisis burden worldwide.”

In other findings, Christian Aid’s poll found that British adults who say they are concerned about climate change (45% vs 21%), racism and racial inequality (46% vs 22%) are twice as likely as those who are not concerned about these issues to agree that climate change disproportionately impacts black and brown people worldwide.

Whereas British adults who are not concerned about climate change are significantly more likely than those who are concerned about climate change to believe that white people are more vulnerable to its negative impacts worldwide (39% vs 24%). This could indicate further that those who are less engaged with climate change are also less familiar with the damage it causes around the world.

Only a third (34%) of Brits believe the UK Government is currently investing adequate levels of resource and funding to tackle climate change. Those who are concerned about climate change are significantly more likely than those who are not to agree that tackling racism and racial inequality in the UK should receive the same level of political attention as climate change (58% vs 31%).


Notes to Editors:

1. See, for example, ‘Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 ºC’, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, October 2018:

2. Savanta ComRes interviewed 2,052 British adults aged 18+ online between 12th to 14th June 2020. Data were weighted to be nationally representative of all British adults by key demographic characteristics including age, gender, region and social grade. Full data tables are available on: Savanta ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.