Extreme Weather & Bushfires Seen as #1 Global Security Risk

The 2024 Munich Security Index on global perceptions of major threats was released this week. The polling-based research includes a representative sample of 1,000 respondents in 12 different countries: the G7 economies (US, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and the UK) plus Brazil, India, China and South Africa.

Russian militarism and energy supply disruption have been the top perceived risks since the invasion of Ukraine. But in 2024, citizens’ concerns in the major countries shifted back to the new normal, the so-called “non-traditional threats.” 

Specifically, the number one aggregate concern across all respondents was “Extreme weather and forest fires,” closely followed by “climate change generally.” With good reason, this concern is highest in Brazil, South Africa, Japan and Italy.

The poll also found a broad ongoing concern with disruption of energy supply. Between these two threats, we can see just how substantially zero-carbon domestic energy sources are going to reshape the geopolitical security panorama.

In France and Germany, the leading security concern is Islamic terrorism and mass migration due to war or climate change. This reflects a growing trend against migration and in favour of right-wing nationalist parties in Western Europe.

Economic anxieties seem to have lessened in most countries. This year, only in Brazil, Japan and South Africa did respondents have greater financial concerns for the future than last year.

A stand-out across all the possible security threats raised in the survey was the relative lack of concern within China. The most widely agreed threat among the Chinese people is the United States, of concern to 42% of survey respondents. Approximately as many are concerned about climate change, cyberattacks and biological weapons.

But overall, Chinese citizens seem to have less concern than citizens of other countries with respect to economic or political breakdown, natural disasters, terrorism or a future pandemic. Chinese citizens are less than half as worried about “civil war and political violence” than Americans, for example. Whether or not these attitudes within China are well-founded and well-informed, China nonetheless appears to be a notably more confident society than the major Western countries.

Photo courtesy of @insungyoon via Unsplash.

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