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Climate Change Seen as Top Threat in Global Survey

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Climate change is seen as a top threat by 13 of 26 countries surveyed. Detlev van Ravenswaay / Getty Images

Climate change is seen as the biggest international threat facing many nations, according to a 26-country survey released by the Pew Research Center on Sunday.

Thirteen of the countries surveyed listed global warming as their top security concern. Other major concerns were the Islamic State or ISIS, listed as the top threat by eight countries, cyberattacks, picked by four including the U.S. and Russia's power and influence, which was chosen as the top threat by Poland.


"Overall we've seen that general climate concerns and specifically global climate change had been at the top of the list or near the top of the list along with terrorism in the five years in which we've been doing these questions," Pew Research Center Associate Director Jacob Poushter told U.S. News & World Report.

However, the number of respondents worried about climate change has risen substantially over the past five years. In 2013, a median of 56 percent of respondents across all 23 countries surveyed that year rated it as a top concern. That number rose to 63 percent in 2017 and 67 percent in 2018. Overall, climate change is seen as the top threat by a median of respondents across all 26 countries surveyed in 2018, closely followed by ISIS.

The biggest change in opinion over the past five years was the rise in respondents who listed U.S. power and influence as a major threat. A quarter of 22 nations saw the U.S. as a threat in 2013, but that number rose to 38 percent after President Donald Trump was elected in 2017 and climbed to 45 percent in 2018, two years into his presidency. In 17 countries surveyed, those who have little confidence in the current U.S. president are more likely to list U.S. influence as a threat. The survey did not assess whether Trump's hostility to climate science and decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement contributed to respondents' view of the the U.S. as a global threat.

While climate change is a top concern across many nations, the survey did agree with many other recent polls in recording a partisan divide on the issue within individual countries. In the U.S. and Europe, those on the ideological left are more likely to see climate change as a threat than ISIS, while on the right, this is flipped. For example, Republicans in the U.S. are 56 percent less likely to list climate change as a threat than Democrats. Those who support Germany's right wing Alternative for Germany and the UKIP in Great Britain are 28 percent and 22 percent less likely to see climate change as a threat, respectively, compared to those who don't.

On a country-by-country basis, climate change was seen as a major threat by 90 percent of respondents in Greece, 83 percent in France and 80 percent in Mexico. However, ISIS actually beat climate change as France's top threat, with 87 percent of respondents listing it. All three Latin American countries surveyed listed climate change as their top concern, whereas six out of 10 European countries surveyed picked it as the number one threat.

The survey was conducted between May 14 and Aug. 12, 2018 and had 27,612 respondents.

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