Global Survey: Climate Change Is the Top Threat

Phoenix, Arizona / Art Wager,

A new survey from the Pew Research Center has found climate change remains a “top threat” in 19 developed countries. Of those surveyed across North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, 75 percent identified climate change as the most significant threat to their country and a greater risk than COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, inflation, cyber attacks, and online misinformation. Approximately 20 percent think global warming is a “minor threat” and 5 percent don’t view it as a threat at all.

The Pew Research Center states that Europeans are particularly concerned about climate change. In 11 European countries, “more say climate change is a major threat to their country than at any time in the past decade. The results come as wildfires and extreme heat across Europe cause massive disruption to life.”

In the U.S., only 54 percent of people view climate change as the top threat, with greater concern for the other four threats listed. However, this percentage has grown, up from 45 percent in 2012. Concerns about climate change are at all-time highs in the U.S. and nine other countries.

According to Pew, political views clearly shape perceptions of the risks of climate change. In the U.S., “78 percent of Democrats and those that lean toward the Democratic Party say climate change is a major threat, compared with only 23 percent of Republicans and Republican leaners.”

This finding is consistent in 14 other countries. “In Australia, 91 percent of those who place themselves on the left side of the political spectrum say climate change is a major threat, compared with only 47 percent among those on the right.”

Women also view climate change as a greater danger than men do. In 12 countries, there is a significant gender divide. “Double-digit differences of this nature are present in Australia, the UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, and the U.S.”

Perceptions of climate change are influenced by other demographic factors as well. In the U.S. and six other countries, those with more education are also more concerned about climate change than those with less.

Age plays a more mixed role. “In Australia, Poland, the U.S., and France, younger people are more likely to be concerned about climate change than their elders.” But in other countries like Japan, older adults are more concerned than younger ones.

Another major poll of U.S. households from NPR, the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in June found that the rising numbers of Americans who view climate change as a major threat is linked with increasingly widespread climate impacts. “Public support for government climate action is higher among U.S. adults who have been personally affected by extreme weather events in the past five years than those who have not.”

The survey organizers argue that this trend will continue. “As weather disasters continue to worsen and become more prevalent in the future, public views may gradually shift toward greater support for many policies aimed to limit climate change.”

Among Americans who have been personally affected by extreme weather events in the past five years, “37 percent see climate change in the U.S. as a crisis and 40 percent see it as a major problem” — meaning 77 percent see it as a source of concern. In contrast, among those who haven’t been personally impacted, only 46 percent do.

According to the poll, 78 percent of Americans also say they have been personally affected by a range of extreme weather events over the past five years:

  • Extreme heat (51 percent)
  • Severe cold/severe winter storms (45 percent)
  • Major droughts (25 percent)
  • Hurricanes or severe tropical storms (20 percent)
  • Major flooding (17 percent)
  • Wildfires (17 percent)
  • Tornadoes (14 percent)
  • Rising sea levels or flooding in coastal communities (9 percent)

And of those who have experienced extreme weather events:

  • 24 percent experienced “serious health problems as a result”
  • 17 percent experienced “serious financial problems as a result”
  • 14 percent said they had to evacuate from their home
  • 14 percent reported major home or property damage

Across the U.S., 23 percent of adults think climate change is “threatening the health of their families a great deal or quite a lot.” But the numbers are higher for those who have been personally impacted by an extreme weather event (28 percent) compared to those who have not (9 percent).

The data also reflect what we know — that climate change impacts communities differently. 39 percent of Native American adults, 32 percent of Latino adults, and 28 percent of Black adults say climate change is threatening the health of their families “a great deal or quite a lot” — all much higher than the 23 percent of Americans nationwide.

To solve climate change, 48 percent of Americans look to the federal government and 47 percent to businesses, like landscape architecture firms, and corporations. 24 percent expect state governments will play a major role, while 24 percent look to individuals, which includes designers, 9 percent to community organizations, and 9 percent to local governments.

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