"One reason for the relatively low ranking of climate change is that people often believed it did not directly affect them. Climate change is seen more as a country-level problem than as a personal problem," said Tom W. Smith, director general of International Social Survey Programme (ISSP), which conducted the programme.
"While 14.6 percent cited it as the most important environmental issue for their country, only nine percent rated it first for themselves," said Smith, according to an ISSP statement.
Coordinated surveys, carried out by the ISSP, "are the first and only surveys that put long-term attitudes toward environmental issues in general and global climate change in particular in an international perspective," added Smith, who summarised the findings.
When asked to rank priority worries, people were five times more likely to point to the economy over the environment.
Additionally, when asked about climate change, people identified the issue as more of a national problem than a personal concern.
ISSP is a project of the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago.
The economy ranked highest in concern in 15 countries, followed by health care in eight, education in six, poverty in two, and terrorism and crime in one country each.
Immigration and the environment did not make the top of the list in any country over the 17-year period; in the US, the economy ranked as the highest concern, while concern for the environment ranked sixth.
These findings were presented recently at the "Policy Workshop: Public Attitudes and Environmental Policy in Canada and Europe, Canada-European Transatlantic Dialogue," at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.