In countries on the front lines of climate change, public opinion appears to be catching up to reality.
Citizens in 13 countries ranked climate change the No. 1 threat to national security, according to a report released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center. The 13 countries — out of 38 surveyed — were mostly in Africa and Latin America, where many populations are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, particularly rising average temperatures and extreme weather events.
The findings came as little surprise to at least one expert.
The report “is indicative of a shift we’re seeing in public perception and how intensely individuals are internalizing climate change as not just a global or regional but also a personal issue,” said Shyla Raghav, a climate change expert at Conservation International (CI), which works in seven of the 13 countries. “The results of a poll like this are a wake-up call — that voters, consumers and shareholders everywhere want to see their leaders reflect a deeper sense of responsibility in their organizations, countries and companies.”
The findings come on the heels of a handful of studies and media reports with gloomy predictions for the Earth’s future climate (and for humanity’s chances of achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change).
But things may not be as bleak as they are being portrayed, Raghav says. “These models make a lot of assumptions and perhaps underestimate the impact that policies and new technologies may have,” she said. “And too often, the potential for scaling up the role of nature is overlooked: Nature can account for at least 30 percent of the solution to halting the worst effects of climate change.”
Read the Pew report here.
Bruno Vander Velde is Conservation International’s editorial director.
Cover image: A view of the island of Fernandina in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. © Will Turner/Conservation International