Almost 80 per cent of Brazilians think global warming is caused by human activities, a survey has found, compared with less than half of Americans and around per cent of Britons according to similar recent surveys.
Around 90 per cent of Brazilians believe that global warming is happening and think it is a serious issue, putting them on a par with Europeans and well ahead of Americans.
The results challenge the belief that in the developing world there is a lack of knowledge of the importance of climate change, said Yurij Castelfranchi, an expert on public perception of science based at the Federal University of Minas Gerais.
'The results show that climate change is on the agenda not only for the government but also for civil society,' he told SciDev.Net.
More than 2,000 Brazilians were interviewed for the survey, which was conducted by the National Confederation of Industries (CNI) and published last month (December).
Paula Bennati — the CNI's climate advisor, who oversaw the survey — told SciDev.Net: 'Climate change and environmental protection have become more relevant in CNI because of the population's growing interest in the issue and the increased demands of society, which is more engaged in the issue'.
According to the survey, 90 per cent of Brazilians believe that the average temperature of Earth is increasing, and that it is a 'serious problem'. This is similar to European countries where, according to a 2009 European Commission survey, just ten per cent of people did not consider climate change a serious problem.
By comparison, in the United States, only 54 per cent said that climate change is a major problem, according to a nationwide survey conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University in 2010.
Ulisses Confalonieri, a researcher at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, told SciDev.Net that Brazil's scientific and technological advances had called the public's attention to the issue, particularly since the release of the country's first public data on the impact of climate change, published in 2007.
The recent floods are likely to bring home the message for many Brazilians, as they can see the effects of climate change in these extreme events, he said.
But Brazilians remain upbeat about the future. Almost half of the interviewees said it was possible to reconcile environmental concerns and development, and more than a third agreed that all countries should contribute equally to emissions reductions — regardless of whether they are rich or poor.