Climate change is viewed as the number one threat to countries around the world, according to a new Pew survey. Overall, respondents felt climate change was more of a threat to their countries than financial instability, Islamic extremist groups, and Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs.
Europe and Canada, along with Latin American, African and Asian and Pacific countries felt most threatened by climate change, with more than half of respondents choosing climate change as a major threat facing their countries. This is unsurprising given the threats these countries face — and have already faced — from global warming. Last year alone, more than 32 million people worldwide were displaced due to disasters such as droughts, floods and storms, with countries in Asia and Africa hit hardest.
A recent World Bank report predicts rising temperatures will put serious strain on Africa’s food supply — which could contribute to rising tensions in the country — and warns that climate change will bring extreme heat, flooding, and disease to South Asia in the coming decades. And just this week, 1,000 people were killed and up to 40,000 stranded as a result of flash flooding and landslides in northern India.
In March, America’s top Pacific military officer — a man in charge of overseeing potential threats coming out of North Korea, China and Japan — called climate change the top security threat to the Pacific region, largely due to the amount of people it’s likely to displace. In general, however, the U.S. does not share the rest of the world’s concern when it comes to climate change — in fact, Americans were the least concerned about climate change out of all countries and regions surveyed by Pew. Only 40 percent of American respondents listed climate change as a major threat — Iran’s nuclear program, North Korea’s nuclear weapons, and Islamic extremists were what Americans worried most about.
Given many American politicians’ dismissal or downright denial of climate change, it’s unsurprising that concern for the issue hasn’t trickled down to the American people. But climate change has emerged over the last few years as a major threat to U.S. security. In an April speech, U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said the strains climate change will likely put on U.S. national security — including conflicts over resources and people displaced by storms, drought, flooding and sea level rise — underscores the need for America to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Secretary of State John Kerry has likewise long sought to frame the issue of climate change from the stance of the national security risk it poses for the United States.
Extreme weather events and disasters fueled by a warming climate have already disrupted the lives of thousands of Americans — Hurricane Sandy forced the third-largest number of people from their homes worldwide in 2012, and wildfires in Colorado have forced nearly 40,000 from their homes this year.