A report issued yesterday by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said the planet is already suffering significantly from the effects of climate change and that the threat will only grow more serious in the years ahead —the kind of warning that people in many nations say they take seriously.

Global climate change was the top-rated threat in a 39-nation Pew Research Center survey conducted in spring 2013. A median of 54% across these countries said global climate change was a major threat to their country, slightly more than the 52% who said this about international financial instability. High levels of concern were also expressed about Islamic extremist groups, as well as the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs.  Overall, American power and influence, Chinese power and influence, and Pakistani instability generated fewer worries.

Climate change rated top global threat

Compared with others around the world, Americans are less concerned about climate change – just 40% rate it a major threat. However, there are sharp partisan differences on this issue. A 55%-majority of Democrats consider climate change a major threat, compared with just 42% of independents and 22% of Republicans.

Concerns about climate change are also relatively low in China, which has surpassed the U.S. to  become the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter. Just 39% of Chinese say climate change is a major threat to their country. 

Richard Wike  is director of global attitudes research at Pew Research Center.