The risk of climate change and the spread of infectious diseases are seen as the top threats by the majority of people in 14 economically advanced nations, a recent study by the Pew Research Center has found.
The US-based think-thank surveyed 14,276 adults from Australia, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, South Korea, Sweden and the United States between June and August.
In the latest survey, 70% of respondents cited global climate change as a major threat, followed by the spread of infectious diseases (69%), terrorism (66%), cyberattacks from other countries (65%) and the spread of nuclear weapons (61%) being among the top five threats.
“In a year when the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated news headlines around the world, it is perhaps unsurprising to discover that majorities in 14 countries surveyed this past summer see the spread of infectious disease as a major threat to their countries,” the report said.
“In terms of relative rankings, climate change outpaces or ties infectious disease as the most frequently mentioned ‘major threat’ in eight of 14 countries polled,” the study showed, including seven of the nine European countries surveyed.
According to the pollster, the share of those who see global warming as a major threat is significantly higher today in nine of the 10 countries the Center has tracked over the past seven years.
Especially in Europe, “climate change remains the topmost perceived threat, even as people there also express grave concern about the risks posed by infectious disease.”
Across the Atlantic, climate change was most commonly cited first as a major threat followed by cyberattacks from other countries, terrorism, the spread of nuclear weapons and climate change in fifth place.
According to the findings, concern about climate change is especially high in Spain, France, Italy, South Korea and Japan, with at least eight-in-ten in each country describing it as a major threat.
However, in South Korea, Japan and the US, the majorities saw pandemics as the bigger threats than climate change.
Furthermore, for two of the surveyed countries – Australia and Denmark – cyberattacks were the most commonly cited major threat.
With most global economies having been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, further threats listed included the condition of the global economy and global poverty.
“With the global economy hard hit by COVID-19 related disruptions, concerns about the global economy have increased substantially in most of the countries since the question was last asked in 2018,” the report said.
A majority of respondents in 10 of the 14 countries described the condition of the global economy as a major threat.
This view was particularly pronounced in Britain, where 65% cited the global economic situation as a major threat, up from 41% two years ago, Japan (74%, up from 52%) and France (67%, up from 46%).
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]