In advance of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris this December, many publics around the world name global climate change as a top threat, according to a new Pew Research Center survey measuring perceptions of international challenges.
This is particularly true in Latin America and Africa, where majorities in most countries say they are very concerned about this issue. But as the Islamic militant group ISIS maintains its hold in Iraq and Syria and intensifies its grisly public executions, Europeans and Middle Easterners most frequently cite ISIS as their main concern among international issues.
Global economic instability also figures prominently as the top concern in a number of countries, and it is the second biggest concern in half of the countries surveyed. In contrast, concerns about Iran’s nuclear program as well as cyberattacks on governments, banks or corporations are limited to a few nations. Israelis and Americans are among the most concerned about Iran’s nuclear program, while South Koreans and Americans have the greatest concern about cyberattacks relative to other publics. And apprehension about tensions between Russia and its neighbors, or territorial disputes between China and surrounding countries, largely remain regional concerns.
These are among the findings of a new Pew Research Center survey, conducted in 40 countries among 45,435 respondents from March 25 to May 27, 2015. The report focuses on those who say they are “very concerned” about each issue.
Publics in 19 of 40 nations surveyed cite climate change as their biggest worry, making it the most widespread concern of any issue included in the survey. A median of 61% of Latin Americans say they are very concerned about climate change, the highest share of any region. And more than half in every Latin American nation surveyed report substantial concerns about climate change. In Peru and Brazil, where years of declining deforestation rates have slowly started to climb, fully three-quarters express anxiety about climate change. Sub-Saharan Africans also voice substantial concerns about climate change. A median of 59% say they are very concerned, including about half or more in all countries surveyed. Climate change is particularly worrying in Burkina Faso (79%), Uganda (74%) and Ghana (71%), while South Africans (47%) and Tanzanians (49%) are the least concerned.
Both regions are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as is Asia, where a median of 41% voice great concern about the issue. Indians (73%) and Filipinos (72%) are particularly worried, but climate change captures the top spot in half of the Asian countries surveyed.
Concern about climate change is relatively low in Europe. While a median of 42% report being very concerned, global climate change is not one of the top two threats in any European country. Anxiety about this issue is highest in Spain (59%), but just 14% in Poland say the same.
In a number of European nations, concern about climate change is more pronounced for those on the left of the political spectrum. Ideological differences are particularly large in the United Kingdom, where about half of those on the left (49%) express serious concerns, compared with 30% of those on the right. Those to the left of the political center are also considerably more concerned about global climate change in Italy, France and Spain.
Global climate change ranks substantially lower as a comparative global threat for Americans, with 42% saying they are very concerned about the issue. The only global issue that is even less worrying to Americans: territorial disputes between China and its neighbors (30%). Much like in Europe, perceptions in the U.S. about the threat of climate change depend on ideology. About six-in-ten Democrats (62%) are very concerned about climate change, while just 20% of Republicans say the same.