• A recent report has shown how citizens of different countries rank the threat of climate change and infectious diseases.
  • Around 69% of those surveyed class infectious disease as a major threat to their country and 70% think the same about climate change.
  • In France, 83% of those surveyed class climate change as a major threat, compared to only 59% of Australians.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, people around the world are still concerned by the threat of global climate change. A median of 70% across 14 countries surveyed over the summer say climate change is a major threat to their country. A similar median, 69%, say the same of the spread of infectious diseases.

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Those who say climate change is a major threat ranges from 59% in Australia to 83% in France, Spain and Italy.
Image: Pew Research Center

Of the two issues, climate change is the more commonly selected threat in eight of 14 countries polled, while five name the spread of infectious diseases as a top threat (the Canadian public is split, with equal shares citing climate change and the spread of disease). Majorities in each of the countries surveyed say both global climate change and the spread of infectious diseases are major threats to their country.

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France, Italy and Spain all have the highest percentage points of those classing climate change as a major threat.
Image: Pew Research Center

The share who say climate change is a major threat in each country ranges from 59% in Australia to 83% in France, Spain and Italy. Two-thirds or more say the same in Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK, Japan and South Korea.

Significant minorities across the countries surveyed say climate change is a minor threat to their country, with a median of 24% expressing this view. A quarter or more say it is a minor threat in half the countries polled. Of these, Denmark has the largest share (34%) calling climate change a minor, not major, threat.

Relatively few say climate change is not a threat: Only in the United States do more than one-in-ten hold this view.

In many countries, the percent who view climate change as a major threat has increased significantly since the question was first asked. This aligns with past Pew Research Center surveys that included countries in Latin American and sub-Saharan Africa. In 2013, a median of 55% across 10 countries said climate change was a major threat. This year, a median of 76% across the same 10 countries say the same.

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France has experienced the largest change in those classing climate change as a major threat
Image: Pew Research Center/Summer 2020 Global Attitudes Survey

In France, for example, about half (54%) said climate change was a major threat in 2013. In 2020, 83% say this, an increase of 29 percentage points. However, in nearly every country surveyed, there was no significant change between 2018, when the question was last asked, and 2020.

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How someone's ideologies may affect their views on climate change.
Image: Pew Research Center

In all countries surveyed, people who place themselves on the left of the political spectrum are more likely to see global climate change as a major threat to their country than those on the right. Differences between the two sides of the ideological spectrum reach the double digits in 12 of 13 countries surveyed. (Those in Japan were not asked about their ideology.)

This divide is widest in the U.S. (where ideology from left to right is defined as liberal, moderate or conservative): 89% of liberals view climate change as a critical threat compared with 40% of conservatives, a difference of 49 percentage points. Australia and Canada follow with differences of 30 and 29 points, respectively. Nonetheless, at least four-in-ten of those on the right in each country still see global warming as a substantial threat to their country.

Previous international Pew Research Center surveys have found that views on climate change are aligned with ideology. In a survey of 20 publics fielded from October 2019 to March 2020, those on the left were for the most part more likely to say climate change is a very serious problem, that it is affecting where they live and that the national government is doing too little to address its effects.

The summer 2020 survey finds women are more likely than men to say climate change poses a major threat. In Sweden, for example, women are 16 percentage points more likely than men to say climate change is a major threat (72% vs. 56%).

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How someone's partisan divide may affect their opinion on climate change.
Image: Pew Research Center

In the U.S., Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are significantly more likely to view climate change as a major threat than Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. While 85% of Democrats say global warming poses a significant threat to the U.S., only 31% of Republicans say the same.

The share of Americans who say climate change is a major threat to the U.S. has increased from 2012, but this rise in concern has come mostly from Democrats (+26 percentage points since 2012). The share of Republicans saying this has increased just 8 points over the same period. This aligns with previous Pew Research Center surveys on Americans’ views of climate change.