ISIS and Global Warming Are Considered Top Security Threats by Most of the World

And then there is the US.

Debsuddha Banerjee/Zuma

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

People around the world consider climate change to be a top security threat—and in some cases the biggest threat, according to a survey published Tuesday by Pew Research Center. The poll surveyed 42,000 adults in 38 countries and asked them to prioritize eight types of perceived threats, including concern about the economy, cybersecurity, climate change, and ISIS. 

Of course, views on all these issues varied widely depending on region, age, and the political leanings of those who were surveyed. In most cases, especially in most western European countries, climate change ranks in second place when it’s not a top concern. Overall 13 countries surveyed—most clustered in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa—ranked global warming as the top concern. Eighteen nations picked ISIS.

Americans tend to consider ISIS and cybersecurity to be greater threats than climate change, in comparison to Canada and most European countries. Out of the eight issues polled, Americans rank climate change third (56 percent), while 74 percent rank ISIS as number one, and 71 percent see cyberattacks as a top threat. Cybesecurity also comes in second in Germany and the UK, which were also recent victims of high-profile attacks. 

Among those who do consider climate change a major security threat, the US is also uniquely polarized. Eighty-six percent of liberals say climate change is a major concern, while only 31 percent of conservatives say the same. The right-left divide exists in other countries, but no country approaches the 55-point gap in the US. 

Though terrorism dominates the news when an attack occurs, in terms of sheer scale, the threat of climate change is far greater. Obama was criticized for saying as much as president, but national security experts have been making these connections for years, warning that global warming is a “catalyst for conflict,” and growing cause for instability.  

Hundreds of thousands of people die each year from heat waves, flooding, and other climate-related impacts, while millions more die from breathing bad air. In contrast, terrorism killed 29,376 globally in 2015 for the second-deadliest year on record, according to Institute for Economics and Peace’s annual index. 

There’s one other way US exceptionalism comes through in this survey: Pew also asked respondents about their concern over Russia, China, and US influence and power. Thanks to Trump’s unpopular reputation abroad, concern about the US role is on the rise.

More Mother Jones reporting on Climate Desk

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate