- Global survey finds two thirds feel the world is less safe than two years ago
- Majority want enhanced multilateral cooperation to address global risks
- Pandemics are now seen as the most urgent global risk in six of ten countries polled, but climate, weapons of mass destruction, extreme poverty remain key concerns
Stockholm– A majority of people polled in a new ten-country global survey say they want more effective international cooperation to address global threats including, but not limited to, the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.
The Novus survey, released today, is the fourth global opinion poll to be commissioned by the Stockholm-based Global Challenges Foundation, tracking public attitudes to global risks and cooperation in Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, India, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.
With world leaders about to convene virtually for the G20 Summit over the weekend of November 21-22, the survey found that almost two thirds (65%) of those questioned think the world is more insecure than two years ago.
Majorities in seven of the countries do not believe politicians are doing enough to tackle the spread of the coronavirus, while majorities in all ten countries feel politicians are not doing enough to combat climate change.
“It’s clear that our current systems of global cooperation are not making people feel safe,” said Jens Orback, Executive Director of the Global Challenges Foundation. “When we asked people to list three words to describe the world today, some of the most common after ‘pandemic’ were ‘scary’, ‘uncertain’ and ‘chaotic’. This survey indicates that citizens around the world have confidence in multilateral action but urgently want political leaders to find new and improved ways to solve the most pressing global risks together.”
When asked whether international cooperation is likely to increase as a result of the pandemic, majorities in India, China, South Africa and Brazil agreed. The countries where people are least likely to believe this are Russia, the USA, Germany and Australia.
United Nations reform is favoured by a large majority (77%) across the countries. Two thirds (67%) also believe a new supranational organisation should be created to make binding global decisions to manage global risks. Countries most in favour of this idea are India, China and South Africa; those least in favour are Germany, the USA and Sweden.
Global Challenges Foundation’s Jens Orback said: “We have a golden opportunity here, particularly with the likely return of the US to the international fold, to reshape our systems of global cooperation and step up our efforts to tackle the global catastrophic risks our publics care about.
“Whether it’s global warming or the next pandemic, the experience of COVID-19 has shown us that no country can go it alone; we need to turbo charge multilateralism if we are to protect humanity’s future.”
The majority of respondents across the ten countries consider all the issues listed in the survey – climate change, environmental degradation, political violence, weapons of mass destruction, pandemics, artificial intelligence, population increases and extreme poverty – to be potential global catastrophic risks.
However, as in previous years, there are marked geographical differences with how respondents perceive global risks, particularly between higher income and lower income regions. People in six out of the ten countries – Australia, Brazil, China, India, UK and USA – believe epidemics and pandemics are now the most urgent global risk for the international community to address. Two countries, Germany and Sweden, say climate change is the most urgent. Weapons of mass destruction are the most pressing risk for Russians, while South Africans are most concerned about extreme poverty.
Climate change features in the top three most urgent risks for all ten countries this year. A majority in half the countries – India, Brazil, China, South Africa and Russia – say they are already affected by high temperatures, pollution, droughts/fires and floods.
While fewer people in the US consider climate change to be a global risk than in other countries, the proportion is still nearly three quarters (73%) of respondents. A similar percentage of Americans (72%) agree that “we should try to prevent climate disasters that may occur in decades or centuries, even if it means making significant changes to our daily lives, affecting our current standard of living”. A majority in all countries agrees that human actions are the main cause of global warming. The proportion is highest in Brazil and India, and lowest in Russia and Australia. Two thirds (66%) of Americans polled believe this.
Notes to editors:
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About the survey
The Novus survey was conducted for Global Challenges Foundation in June and July 2020 and included 10,154 web-based interviews of people in the ten countries aged 18-79. Global Catastrophic Risks are defined as events or threats that might cause humanity serious damage worldwide, whether immediately or in the future, with the potential to affect 10 per cent or more of the global population. Download the survey here.
About the Global Challenges Foundation
The Global Challenges Foundation works to incite deeper understanding of the global risks that threaten humanity and catalyse ideas to tackle them. Rooted in a scientific analysis of risks, the Foundation brings together the brightest minds from academic, politics, business and civil society to forge transformative approaches to secure a better future for all. www.globalchallenges.org