Is Climate Change or IS Greater Threat to Mankind?

Is Climate Change or IS Greater Threat to Mankind?Is Climate Change or IS Greater Threat to Mankind?

The world at large is apparently divided over what constitutes the biggest single threat to mankind: The devastation caused by climate change or the unbridled terror unleashed by the Islamic State group holding large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria?

According to a new Pew Research Center survey designed to measure perceptions of international threats, climate change is viewed as the “top concern” by people around the world, Thalif Deen wrote for IPS News.

“However, Americans, Europeans and Middle Easterners most frequently cite IS as the top threat among international issues,” says the survey.

People in 19 of 40 nations surveyed cite climate change as their biggest worry, making it the most widespread concern of any issue in the survey.

A median of 61% of Latin Americans say they are very concerned about climate change, the highest share of any region.

These are among some of the findings of the survey by Pew Research Center, which describes itself as a non-partisan “fact tank,” conducted in 40 countries among 45,435 respondents from March 25 to May 27, 2015.

 Rethinking Collective Approaches

Dr. Michael Dorsey, a member of the Club of Rome and an expert on global governance and sustainability, told IPS: “If publics fear climate change more than terrorism, we might have to rethink collective and regulatory approaches for entities responsible for carbon pollution.

“If we accept the fact that carbon pollution drives both human mortality and morbidity, compromises ecosystems and threatens society, then institutions and firms that produce carbon pollution, as well as those who opt to finance carbon polluters are akin to those who work with entities engaged in and financing terrorism.”

It should come as no surprise that in some jurisdictions, elected officials are considering laws usually used to fight organized crime against those that deny the unfolding climate crisis, said Dorsey, a visiting professor and lecturer at several universities in Africa and Europe and interim director of energy and environment at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

He also said: “A US Senator [Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island] has suggested we use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO Act, against the fossil fuel industry, its trade associations and the conservative policy institutes who openly deny climate change and exacerbate it.”

  Economic Instability

The survey points out that global economic instability also figures prominently as the top concern in several countries and it is the second biggest concern in half of those surveyed.

“In contrast, concerns about Iran’s nuclear program as well as cyberattacks on governments, banks or corporations are limited to a few nations. Tensions between Russia and its neighbors and territorial disputes in Asia largely remain regional, not global concerns,” the survey added.

Patricia Lerner, senior political adviser at Greenpeace International, said it is not surprising that nearly half of the nations surveyed cites climate change as their biggest worry.

“It’s those on the frontlines of climate change and its catastrophic results, who are often the first to recognize the real threat it presents.”

For others, it can seem an invisible threat and they do not yet recognize it as an existential one that will exacerbate all their other fears, such as over terrorism, international tensions and economic instability, as people are driven from their homes by drought, flood or rising sea levels, she pointed out.

Lerner said the deadly cycle of drilling in the Arctic for oil which is burned, creating CO2, which then further melts the Arctic, raising sea-levels and displacing people living on small islands is a clear illustration of the myopia of governments and businesses which are failing to recognize climate change is an issue that “threatens all of us, wherever we live.”

 Grim Realities

Dr. Doreen Stabinsky, professor of global environmental politics at the College of the Atlantic, Maine, said, “Noteworthy to me is the heightened concern of Latin American and African countries.”

These regions are on the frontlines of climate change and the risks there are turning into grim realities of more extreme storms, droughts and dwindling crop yields, she said.

“One hopes that this heightened concern of the public translates into political resolve on the part of their governments in Paris in December, where those rich countries responsible for these impacts must be convinced to seriously curtail emissions and provide necessary financial support to developing countries to do the same,” said Stabinsky, a visiting professor of climate change leadership at the Uppsala University in Sweden.

The survey also revealed that people in 14 countries expressed the greatest concern about IS.

In Europe, a median of 70% expressed serious concerns about the threat IS poses, while a majority of Americans (68%), Canadians (58%) and Lebanese (84%) were also very concerned.

 Israel Singled Out

Israelis were the only public surveyed to rate Iran as their top concern among the international issues tested.

Economic instability was a top concern in five countries and the second highest concern in 20 countries. In Russia, 43% said they are very concerned about the economy, the highest-ranking concern of any issue tested there.

The threat of cyberattacks on governments, banks or corporations does not resonate as a top-tier worry globally, though there are pockets of anxiety, including the US (59%) and South Korea (55%).