Survey: Climate Change, Infectious Disease Seen as Top Global Threats

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered upheaval around the world, surpassing 27 million known cases and closing in on 1 million reported deaths worldwide by Sept. 9. With its dominance in news headlines, it is not surprising that majorities of people surveyed in 14 countries see the spread of infectious disease as a major threat.

However, across most European countries in the survey the nonpartisan Pew Research Center conducted this summer, climate change is seen as the top global threat. Climate change leads or ties infectious disease as the most frequently mentioned major threat in eight of the 14 countries in the survey, including seven of nine European countries in the study.

People polled in five countries — Australia, Japan, South Korea, the United States and the United Kingdom — say infectious diseases are the greatest threat to their countries. People surveyed in two countries — Australia and Denmark — place cyberattacks as the top threat in their nations.

Overall, a median of about 7 in 10 people across the 14 countries in the survey say global climate change and the spread of infectious diseases are major threats. Medians of 6 in 10 or more say security concerns such as terrorism, cyberattacks and the spread of nuclear weapons are a top threat.

A median of 58% placed the condition of the global economy as a top security threat, a marked increase from 2018, when Pew last asked the public about the global economy. Fewer people say they are concerned about global poverty, long-standing conflicts or large-scale migrations.

[MORE: Australia Debates a Climate Strategy]

Among other notable findings in the survey:

— Older people in the 14 countries are more concerned about security threats: terrorism, cyberattacks and the spread of nuclear weapons.

— Women tend to be more concerned about most of the threats named in the survey.

— In most of the countries, people on the political left tend to be more worried about climate change than people on the right.

— Concern about the threats posed by climate change is strongest in Spain, France, Italy, South Korea and Japan.

The survey follows findings Pew released in June that showed two-thirds of Americans saying the federal government is falling short in efforts to reduce the threats of climate change, findings that show the issue is becoming increasingly bipartisan.

In producing its study, Pew used the data from nationally representative surveys of 14,276 adults via phone from June 10 to Aug. 3. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, face-to-face interviewing was not possible, so surveys were conducted in nations with vigorous telephone polling methods.

More from U.S. News

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The 10 Countries That Care Most About the Environment, Ranked by Perception

The 25 Best Countries in the World

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