Sur­vey con­ducted in 38 coun­tries also of­fers in­sight into how peo­ple view global warm­ing

New Straits Times - - Opinion -

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.

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