Eight out of ten Indians think the amount of rainfall in their area has changed in the past 10 years – either decreasing (46%) or increasing (34%); 54% feel that hot days in their area have become more frequent, while 23% feel they are less frequent now; 21% feel severe storms and droughts have become more frequent, while 15% feel floods are now more frequent; as many as 38% say the monsoon has become more unpredictable than before in their area.

These are among the many finds of an India-wide survey led by Yale University of the US. The survey – among 4,031 Indians in cities and villages – was carried out in November and December 2011. Survey firms Globescan and C-Voter joined Yale University researchers for the purpose.

Of all the people surveyed, 56% said global warming is caused mostly by human activities, while 31% said it is caused mostly by natural changes in the environment; 61% said they are worried about global warming and 67% said the issue is important to them personally.

A large majority said global warming will harm future generations (67%), plant and animal species (67%), people in India (66%), people in their own community (62%) and themselves and their own family (57%); 50% said they have already personally experienced the effects of global warming, while 43% said global warming is already harming or will harm people in India within the next 10 years.

A majority of Indians say such changes in the climate have a direct impact on their lives; 58 to 65% of respondents said that a one-year-long severe drought or flood in their area would have a large or medium impact on their lives, including their household’s drinking water and food supply, their health, income or house, and their broader community; 64% said it would take their household several months to several years to recover from a severe drought or flood.

While most of the respondents did not understand the term global warming, they could relate to the effects when the term was explained. Only seven per cent of respondents said they know “a lot” about global warming, while 41% had either “never heard of it” or said “I don’t know”. When given a short definition of global warming, however, 72% said they believe it is happening.

Three quarters of the people surveyed were from urban areas, whereas a majority of Indians live in villages and are more directly affected by climate change. That sampling may have skewed the findings.

Asked who they trusted to give them information about climate change, 73% mentioned scientists, followed by the news media (69%), environmental organizations (68%), and their own family and friends (67%). Governments and religious leaders were trusted by about half the respondents.

Asked to indicate their support for policies to combat climate change and its effects, 41% of respondents said the government of India should be doing more to address global warming; 54% said India should be making a large or moderate-scale effort to reduce global warming, even if it has large or moderate economic costs.

On the question of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases that cause global warming, 38% said India should immediately reduce its own emissions without waiting for other countries, 18% said India should reduce its own emissions only if rich countries go first, 13% said India should reduce its own emissions only if all the other countries of the world reduce their emissions at the same time, while 13% said India should not reduce its emissions under any circumstances.

Seventy per cent of those surveyed favoured a national programme to teach Indians about global warming; 67% favoured a national effort to help local communities build check dams to increase water supplies. A majority favoured a variety of policies to reduce waste of fuel, water, and energy, even if this increased costs.

Asked if environmental protection improves economic growth and provides new jobs, 35% agreed, while 16% said it has no effect; 53% said protecting the environment is more important, even if it reduces economic growth, while 28% felt the other way.

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