When reading the article behind the Climate Change Quiz page of previous post, I came across a link to another article from pew with the catching title: Climate Change Seen as Top Global Threat. It seems to go back to the same survey that was used for the quiz (Spring 2015 Pew Global Attitudes Survey) and took place from March 25 to May 27, 2015. While the quiz was based on three questions from that survey on climate change, this “global threat” article was based on specifically those who said that they are “very concerned” about some threat, amongst which climate change is one.
My first thought when I saw what the other threats were: these are not all “global” threats. I don’t think that for example “Territorial disputes with China” qualifies as something “global”. But never mind, maybe it is used as something that is considered as a threat “globally”?
So I looked at their nice visualization of those “top” “global” threats:
That is not exactly “global” either!
First, there are quite some white, unsurveyed, areas on that map (about 1/4 of the population not taken into account). Second, none of those issues were “globally” considered as a threat. The only thing one could say is that there were more countries colored blue than any other color.
But then I spotted the giant elephant in the room and slowly started to understand what was exactly meant by “top” threat: among the countries that were “very concerned” about Climate Change was … China.
My first reaction was to look at the percentage of respondents that put Climate Change in their “very concerned” list. This is what happens when we sort the countries by their concern about Climate Change:
Climate Change is apparently not considered a “top threat” in China…
China is THIRD LAST on that list with a miserable 19% of those who were very concerned about Climate Change. The reason why Climate Change was considered the “top threat” in China, is not because a majority of the Chinese is very concerned about it, but there wasn’t another issue that got a share as big as Climate Change. One can take any other threat and China will be somewhere in the last four. Maybe the biggest threat(s) for the Chinese were not among the threats proposed by pew? Or the Chinese perceive no big “global” threats at this moment? Whatever the case, the “very concerned” group was actually a minority. It was just that 19% that colored China blue on that map, while ignoring that 81% of the Chinese WEREN’T very concerned about climate change.
In the end, the same survey is used to build the perception that climate change is globally considered a top threat (including in China), but it is also used to prove that China is one of the countries that is least concerned about climate change.