Climate Change Is Seen as Most Worrying Threat to World Security

While government officials are set to discuss geopolitical tensions at a conference in Munich, a new poll suggests people are more concerned about global warming

Sugarcane fields next to scorched fields due to a fire near Ribeirão Preto, Sao Paulo state, Brazil.
By Jonathan Tirone
February 19, 2022 | 10:18 AM

Bloomberg — Climate change is seen as a bigger threat than war by a majority of people living in some of the world’s top economies, according to new data being presented to diplomats and military officials who convene Friday for a key security meeting in Germany.

The poll commissioned by the Munich Security Conference listed concern over global warming, habitat destruction and extreme weather as the top three risks named by 12,000 people surveyed globally in November. The results are notable since polling coincided with some of the first reports of escalating military tension between Russia and Ukraine.

“The belief in the seeming inevitability of climate change, the perceived lack of political control, and the widespread (and increasing) skepticism of whether others will do their share make it even more difficult to solve,” read the report, which will be presented at the three-day meeting attended by leaders including U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

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United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged nations to de-escalate military tensions and coordinate efforts to reduce emissions. “The climate crisis is out of control,” he told attendees on Friday. “This could further de-stabilize entire regions.”

The security implications of global heating are increasingly focusing the attention of intelligence and military officials. The Biden administration warned in October that climate change will exacerbate instability around the world by driving vulnerable people to flee hard-hit regions. Rising seas, melting permafrost and superstorms are known as threat multipliers  among the defense officials who’ll discuss the issue this weekend in the German city.

One of the key jobs of leaders is to help populations overcome feelings of hopelessness in confronting the climate crisis, according to the report. “People polled are now even more risk-aware,” it read. “People around the world are growing increasingly concerned about the impacts of climate change.”

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The poll, conducted by Kekst CNC in November, surveyed people in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, South Africa, the U.S. and U.K. The coronavirus pandemic, cyberattacks, financial crisis and disinformation were among the other top threats listed. Russia ranked 23rd among perceived threats, followed by Iran at 28, North Korea at 29 and the U.S. at 30.