Islamic State and Climate Change Seen as World’s Greatest Threats, Poll Says
By LISA FRIEDMAN
Aug 1 2017
Climate change is essentially tied with the Islamic State as the most-feared security threat across much of the world — except in the United States, where cyberattacks are considered a greater danger than global warming, according to a Pew Research Center report released on Tuesday.
Residents of 13 countries ranked climate change as the greatest threat to national security, while in 17 countries the Islamic State was considered a more immediate problem.
In the United States, however, a gaping partisan divide pushed climate change to third-most severe perceived threat, after ISIS and cyberwarfare. Just 56 percent of Americans surveyed identified global warming as the most serious threat to the country, compared to 71 percent for cyberwarfare and 74 percent for Islamic State attacks.
The American intelligence community concluded that Russia used cyberweapons to interfere with the presidential election last year, perhaps accounting for the heightened sense of threat. The Trump administration has consistently played down the dangers of a warming climate and has withdrawn the United States from the Paris accord on climate change signed by nearly 200 nations.
Jacob Poushter, Pew’s senior researcher and a co-author of the study, said that in most countries terrorism and climate change were seen as the most pressing dangers. The United States was an exception, he said.
“The stark partisan divide between those on the left and the right means there is a large portion in the United States that doesn’t see climate change as a threat,” Mr. Poushter said. “But there’s a large percentage that does, so that lowers the number.”
The survey of 41,953 people in 38 countries was conducted from February through May. Beyond the top line figures, the survey offers other insights about how people around the world view global warming.
Latin America is deeply worried about climate change
While Latin America is certainly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, its countries rarely rank among the most at risk. That unfortunate distinction tends to go to Chad, Sudan, low-lying island states and other places where poverty and civil strife meet rising seas, floods and drought. So it’s not surprising, perhaps, to see so many countries in Africa put climate change at the top of their worry lists.
But 74 percent of people surveyed in seven South American and Latin American countries cite climate as their top global concern, the highest of any region surveyed.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change offers some clues, citing “significant trends in precipitation and temperature” across the region. Paula Caballero, global director of the climate change program at the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based think tank, noted the multiple devastating floods this spring in her native Colombia.
“In Latin America the impacts of climate change both in terms of extreme events as well as the intensity and frequency of events has really gained momentum,” said Ms. Caballero, who formerly served as Colombia’s lead United Nations negotiator on climate change.
Even in Venezuela, the only Latin American country surveyed that did not name climate change as its top concern, global warming came in just below worries about the economy. In the midst of its own political and economic crisis last month, Venezuelan leaders ratified the Paris Agreement.