Folks like those who stage events like the “Walk Against Warming” illustrated above think fighting climate change is a high priority. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry say climate change is the greatest threat facing the world.
But United Nations-sponsored worldwide polling suggests that how people answer the question, “How high a priority is fighting global warming?” depends significantly on their economic condition.
Data for all countries and country groups, ages, education levels, and both genders puts global warming 16th—out of 16.
The next four up the list, in ascending order, are phone and Internet access, protecting forests, rivers, and oceans, political freedoms, and protection from discrimination and persecution, and reliable energy at home.
The first four, in descending order, are a good education, better health care, better job opportunities, honest and responsive government.
The next six are affordable and nutritious food, protection against crime and violence, access to clean water and sanitation, support for people who can’t work, better transport and roads, and equality between men and women.
But things change when the responses (which came from 7.7 million people) are analyzed by “human development index” (HDI), which equates roughly with wealth. Global warming’s priority climbs from 16th for people from low HDI countries to 13 for those from medium HDI countries, 12th for those from high HDI countries, and 10th for those from very high HDI countries.
Even for the rich, in other words, global warming ranks behind nine other issues: good education, access to clean water and sanitation, honest and responsive government, affordable and nutritious food, better health care, protecting forests, rivers, and oceans, freedom from discrimination and persecution, protection from crime and violence, and equality of men and women.
What’s really interesting is to think of why these different income groups rank risks as they do.
It’s pretty clear that very few people in very high HDI countries themselves lack their higher-ranked priorities, so their answers to the survey seem likely to rest on their judgment of what are the greatest needs of people in lower HDI countries, especially the poor. Even the wealthiest people, in other words, recognize that fighting global warming should be a much lower priority than at least 9 others.
For those living in low HDI countries, the priorities instead reflect their own needs. Why? Because poverty is a primary cause of their lack of—in descending order by their own prioritization—good education, better health care, better job opportunities, honest and responsive government, affordable and nutritious food, reliable energy at home, better transport and roads, protection against crime and violence, political freedoms, access to clean water and sanitation, support for people who can’t work, equality between men and women, phone and Internet access, freedom from discrimination, and protecting forests, rivers, and oceans.
This is a message that President Obama, Pope Francis, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and leaders all over the world need to grasp. Climate alarmists are an elite group panicking about a low-risk problem and diverting massive amounts of money from solving far more serious problems, especially for the poor. Responsible leaders shouldn’t be fooled.
(Hat tip: Anthony Watts and Ryan Maue)
Featured image courtesy of Erland Howden, Creative Commons, used by permission.