When you lie awake at night worrying about the world, what grips your intestines with fear? Lack of money? California’s drought and food shortages? Or do you have nightmares filled with orange suits and gory ISIS reports? Well, here’s something we found interesting: for a new survey, the Pew Research Center asked this very same thing of 45,435 people in 40 different countries between March 25 and May 27, 2015. And the results are fairly predictable. Americans, who are among the least threatened by ISIS, are more afraid of the group than any other critical global issue. By the end of October last year, ISIS killed an estimated 24,000 people, according to the UN. That number has to be significantly higher now, but to put it in perspective, consider that climate change is expected to kill up to 600,000 people each year by 2030.
According to the Pew survey, 68 percent of Americans consider ISIS to be the greatest threat to their safety, while 42 percent are afraid of the impact climate change will have on health, nutrition, rising seas and other ecological factors.
Don’t get me wrong, ISIS is a disturbingly misguided group and poses grave danger to world peace, but its main threat is to Islam itself and people living in Iraq and Syria and other countries in close proximity. The Atlantic published an excellent analysis of what ISIS really wants, which should dispel overblown fears about their intentions in the United States. But as a recent VOX report notes, mainstream media has an enormous impact on what information people have about any given issue, which may contribute to the distorted perception of risk.
“This moderate concern for global climate change in the United States is not surprising considering a recent Gallup poll found that about one-third of Americans believe the effects of global warming will either never happen or not happen in their lifetime,” writes Think Progress about the report.
One immediate threat is the impact California’s drought will have on America’s food supply.
“When you look at the California drought maps, it’s a scary thing,” Craig Chase, who leads the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture’s Marketing and Food Systems Initiative at Iowa State University, told ThinkProgress. “We’re all wondering where the food that we want to eat is going to come from. Is it going to come from another state inside the U.S.? Is it going to come from abroad? Or are we going to grow it ourselves? That’s the question that we need to start asking ourselves.”
Tell us in the comments: what keeps you up at night?