Climate change tops global threats in Pew survey of 19 countries

Boats resting on the exposed bed of Poland's Solinskie Lake on Aug 30, amid droughts in Europe. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON - Climate change is the top global threat in the public's mind across 19 developed countries, a Pew Research Centre survey reveals.

The spread of false information online, and cyber attacks from other countries, were the second- and third-biggest concerns to emerge overall, according to the survey findings released on Wednesday.

"A median of 75 per cent across 19 countries in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region label global climate change as a major threat, and in 10 countries, concerns about climate change are at all-time highs," said the report.

Seventy per cent across the countries saw the spread of misinformation as a top threat, while 67 per cent said cyber attacks are the top threat.

In Singapore, however, more respondents listed cyber attacks, the state of the economy, and infectious diseases as the top threats - ahead of climate change and online misinformation.

The survey also showed that people view the often much-maligned United Nations favourably, and believe "common values" are more important for bringing nations together than "common problems".

"The United Nations is seen more favourably than unfavourably across most of the countries surveyed in 2022," said the report. "A median of 65 per cent express a positive opinion of the multilateral organisation, compared with 27 per cent who have an unfavourable view."

Israel stood out as having the least favourable view of the UN.

The survey was conducted from Feb 14 to June 3 this year among 24,525 adults in the 19 economies.

It covered Australia, Canada and the United States, 11 countries in Europe, Israel, as well as Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.

The findings come as several rivers in Europe are running almost dry, a heatwave is scorching China, wildfires are burning the western part of the US, and huge floods triggered by precipitation in some places that were 600 per cent above average have inundated a third of Pakistan.

"Despite these issues, people around the world express optimism that the problems facing their country can be solved by working with other countries," said Pew Research.

Europeans were more likely to say now that climate change is a major threat to their countries than at any time in the past decade, the survey found.

"However, in virtually every European country surveyed, concerns about climate change are less pronounced among those who support right-wing populist parties," it said.

This divide was also evident in the US, with 78 per cent of Democrats and those that lean towards the Democratic Party saying climate change is a major threat, compared with only 23 per cent of Republicans and Republican leaners.

While climate change tops the list of threats overall, concerns about cyber attacks, possibly heightened by the tensions between Russia and Ukraine as well as prominent instances of hacking across the world, are at all-time highs in many of the countries surveyed, Pew reported.

"In the last five years, there has been a remarkable increase in the share saying cyber attacks from other countries are a major threat to their country," added the report.

"And regarding both cyber attacks and the spread of false information online, older people are substantially more concerned than young adults in about half of the countries surveyed."

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