Climate change biggest public concern, says major international survey

By David Donaldson

February 14, 2019

Climate change is seen as a top international threat by more countries than any other problem, according to a 26-nation survey.

Concern is growing, too — whereas 56% of global respondents saw it as a major threat to their country in 2013, that number had grown to 67% by 2018, when the survey was conducted by American think tank the Pew Research Center.

“Australia largely follows this trend: worry about climate change was closely followed by ISIS on 59% and foreign cyber attacks on 58%.”

Half the countries surveyed nominated climate change as the number one concern, including Australia, where 60% of respondents agreed it was “a major threat to our country”.

Internationally, Islamic State and cyber attacks by other countries were the other two concerns named most often.

Australia largely follows this trend: worry about climate change was closely followed by ISIS on 59% and foreign cyber attacks on 58%.

As in most other places, Australians were less concerned about North Korea’s nuclear program, the condition of the global economy, and US and Russian power and influence.

China’s power and influence

The place where Australia and several Asian countries stand out from the international pack is over China’s power and influence, with 51% of Australians seeing it as a major threat. In South Korea 82% are worried about China, as well as 69% of Japanese and 56% of Filipinos.

Although the results were only released this week, the survey was conducted between May and August last year. Since that time Islamic State has continued to shrink, to the point where it now controls a single village. The number of people agreeing ISIS posed a major threat decreased from the previous year.

The largest change in sentiment among the global threats tracked are for those who see US power and influence as a major threat to their countries.

In 2013, only 25% of respondents saw American power as a major threat to their country, but that jumped substantially to 38% in 2017, the year after Trump was elected president, and to 45% in 2018.

Since 2013, the number of Australians who see the US as a major threat has grown from 19% to 36%. Additionally, 42% of Australians said they do not have confidence in President Trump, compared to 23% who do.

Poland stands out as the only country to rate Russia as its number one threat, though people in Japan and the United States also placed it high up.

The survey included nearly 28,000 respondents across 26 countries.

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