I.S., CLIMATE CHANGE TOP WORLD’S GREATEST THREATS
Survey conducted in 38 countries also offers insight into how people view global warming
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 IS was considered a more immediate problem.
In the US, however, a gaping partisan divide pushed climate change to the third-most severe perceived threat, after IS and cyberwarfare. Just 56 per cent of Americans surveyed identified global warming as the most serious threat to the country, compared to 71 per cent for cyberwarfare and 74 per cent for IS attacks.
The US 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 The Trump administration has consistently played down the dangers of a warming climate and has withdrawn the US from the Paris accord on climate change, which was signed by nearly 200 nations.
Jacob Poushter, Pew’s senior researcher and a co-author of the study, said in most countries, terrorism and climate change were seen as the most pressing dangers, but the US was an exception.
“The stark partisan divide between those on the left and the right means there is a large portion in the US that doesn’t see climate change as a threat,” he 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 to 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 list.
But, 74 per cent 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 United Nations 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 programme 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 impact of climate change both in terms of extreme events as well as the intensity and frequency of events has really gained momentum,” said Caballero, who formerly served as Colombia’s lead UN 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. Amid its political and economic crisis this month, Venezuelan leaders ratified the Paris agreement.
RUSSIANS are among the least concerned about global warming.
The Russian heatwave of 2010 was made three times more likely by climate change, a study later found. But, Russians are generally apathetic about rising greenhouse gas emissions, the Pew survey confirmed. The country backed the Paris agreement on climate change, but Russian President Vladimir Putin did not denounce US President Donald Trump for abandoning the accord as so many other world leaders did.
Putin’s views on the subject are opaque, though. Before the Paris accords, he told world leaders that global warming “was one of the gravest challenges humanity is facing”.
Russia ranked climate change fifth among its global concerns in the Pew survey, below IS, the economy, the refugee crisis and the influence of the US. What do the Russians worry about even less than climate change? Cyberattacks.
AMERICAN opinion on climate change is highly partisan.
We have long known Americans break heavily along party lines over the causes, solutions and very existence of man-made climate change. The Pew study lays that chasm bare.
Among Americans who consider themselves left-leaning, 86 per cent cite rising emissions as a dangerous threat, compared with only 31 per cent on the right. That 55 per cent divide is larger than the partisan split on IS and on the refugee crisis.
Poushter noted that the surveys were conducted in the spring amid national attention on the finding that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election by hacking Democrats’ emails and distributing online propaganda.
Protesters demonstrating in front of the White House in March to oppose President Donald Trump’s executive order to roll back many of his predecessor Barack Obama’s climate change policies. In a recent survey, climate change is seen as the third-most serious threat among Americans.