A new study that has attempted to establish the deepest global fears of the world population has come to the conclusion that climate change ranks most highly. The study, conducted by the Pew Research Centre, has been published in the run up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, so it could be said to fit in rather neatly with this agenda.
However, as the Pew Research Centre conducted interviews with people in 40 countries between March and May this year, and received responses from over 45,000 people, it is fair to say that the results of this study have great relevance and provide an interesting oversight of the global population.
Those participating in this survey were asked to rank some of the biggest issues of our time based on whether they were “very concerned, somewhat concerned, not too concerned, or not at all concerned” about the issues in hand. The Washington DC-based organisation then assessed their responses before ultimately publishing the results.
With the important United Nations Climate Change Conference set to take place in Paris in December, the perception of climate change as a massive international challenge could be considered rather timely. According to the Pew report, climate change is seen as the top threat facing humanity by some distance, with just under half of the 40 nations surveyed indicating that the environmental issue was the largest concern.
The opinion of the global population toward climate change definitely shouldn’t be seen as a uniform response, though. Over half (54 percent) of the countries that responded to the survey did not rate this has the most severe threat in the immediate future, and there was also a significant political demarcation in relation to this issue as well.
When British people were surveyed on the risk of climate change, those who identify themselves as left-wing were far more likely to be concerned about the threat that the environmental phenomenon poses. Around half of UK left-wingers put climate change in the most serious category of risk, which contrasted with just 30 percent of those on the right of the political divide.
Interestingly, there was evidence from the report that the people of Africa are very much tuned into the threat of climate change. One nation that was particularly concerned about the environmental process was that of Burkina Faso. Respondents from Burkina Faso were overwhelmingly worried about the threat of climate change, with 79 percent of people placing it in the highest category of risk.
There could be a number of reasons for this, but two of the most obvious are, firstly, that the United Nations Development Programme predicts that Burkina Faso will be particularly greatly affected by the environmental change. And, secondly, Africa in general has been more vulnerable to severe climatic changes, both due to the overarching climate of the region, as well as the general trend of poverty.
Aside from climate change, the threat of terrorism is still considered to be a major concern for the population. In line with this, the terrorist organisation frequently referred to as ISIS is considered the second biggest threat on the planet according to those that participated in the Pew survey.
Considering that the struggle against ISIS has been seen as a United States-dominated escapade, it is perhaps surprising that the US population was not the most concerned about the threat posed by the terrorist organisation. The Lebanon was shown to be the most concerned with the ISIS issue, with 84 percent of the population fixated on the rise of this Islam-motivated group.
Of course, the Lebanese have to cope with the reality of ISIS on a daily basis, which explains this particular result. There was also a religious divide within Lebanon, with 90 percent of Sunnis and 87 percent of Shia stating that they were particularly concerned about the terrorist group, compared to a surprisingly lowly figure of 76 percent for Christians.
14 countries in total placed ISIS within the highest risk group, and this equates to 40 percent of the total surveyed.
Considering the difficult economic times that the world has been through recently, the number of nations concerned about global economic instability was perhaps less than would be expected. Again, this was of more concern in Africa, which could be related to the aforementioned poverty of the region.
Tensions with Russia have been a perpetual issue for Ukrainians in recent years, and it was pretty much inevitable that this would come top of the tree in the Eastern European nation. 62 percent of Ukrainians and 44 percent of Poles perceived Russia as a serious threat to the stability of both the region and the planet as a whole. But this perception was not necessarily shared outside of Eastern Europe. Just 24 percent of the global population is concerned about the threat of Russia, at least according to the Pew survey.
Iran Nuclear Weapons
Iran was considered marginally more worrying that Russia, with just under one-third of the global population concerned about the Iranian nuclear program. This figure is significantly lower than the top tier concern of climate change, and perhaps suggests that the recent deal agreed between the Obama administration and the Middle Eastern nation is not the triumph that has been suggested in some quarters.
Only Israel ranks Iranian nuclear capability as the top concern in 2015, with 53 percent of Israelis citing this as the largest contemporary threat. While some of the rhetoric from Iran regarding Israel has perhaps not been ideal, it does seem rather unlikely that Iran would ever launch a nuclear attack on Israel, considering that Israel has nuclear weapons and the unwavering support of a massive nuclear power in the shape of the United States (not to mention the fact that Iran doesn’t have any nuclear weapons!).
Yet the US population was seemingly more concerned about Iran than Israel itself, with the threat of an Iranian nuclear attack rated by 62 percent of US citizens as a top tier concern.
Finally, China can be a divisive issue based on geographical location. Israel, the Ukraine and Russia were little concerned about the threat of China, while Vietnam and the Philippines considered the confrontation in the South China Sea to be a major concern to their nations.
It is clear from the Pew survey that global threats can appear entirely differently depending on cultural and geographical factors. But the fact that we live in a world in which there are numerous global threats cannot be reasonably denied.