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Climate-driven migration overtakes Russian aggression as biggest security concern, report finds

Residents gathering at an aid distribution point receive supplies in downtown Kherson, southern Ukraine.
Residents gathering at an aid distribution point receive supplies in downtown Kherson, southern Ukraine. Copyright AP Photo/Bernat Armangue
Copyright AP Photo/Bernat Armangue
By Rosie Frost
Published on Updated
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12,000 people in G7 nations as well as Brazil, India, China and South Africa were questioned about their perception of 32 different global risks.

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European voters are more worried about climate change-driven migration than the threat posed by Russia, according to a new survey.

The research was published on Monday ahead of a gathering of top political and defence officials on Friday.

Done ahead of the Munich Security Conference (MSC), it found that concerns about mass migration as a result of war or climate change have surged over the last year, overtaking Russian aggression. Other climate concerns also placed high in the MSC Security Index.

In Italy, the top three concerns were extreme weather and forest fires, climate change generally and the destruction of natural habitats. Germany was most concerned about mass migration as a result of war or climate change whereas France put this risk in second place followed by climate change generally.

The survey questioned 12,000 people in G7 nations as well as Brazil, India, China and South Africa about their perception of 32 different risks.

Outside of the G7, climate change is still the biggest issue. In all countries except for the US, at least one of the three environmental threats included in the index featured in the top three concerns.

Citizens around the world continue to share severe concerns about environmental threats.

“Notwithstanding abounding differences in risk perceptions, citizens around the world continue to share severe concerns about environmental threats,” the report’s authors say.

A ‘race to the top’ for climate leadership?

Outside of the Security Index survey, the accompanying MSC report titled “Lose-Lose?” also looked at global action on climate issues.

While the increasing alignment of climate, geopolitical and economic goals may help advance green goals, its authors say, national outlooks risk undermining collaboration.

“As more and more states define their success relative to others, a vicious cycle of relative-gains thinking, prosperity losses, and growing geopolitical tensions threatens to unroll,” it reads.

International competition for innovation could be good for advancement, creating a “race to the top” between China and the US. But there are risks to progress on net-zero goals if countries choose to weaponise this rivalry over green technology for other political purposes.

International friction on climate subsidies and carbon pricing also has the potential to undermine green leadership.

Overall, the report says, deeper positive cooperation between high and low-income countries is needed to meet global net-zero targets - especially on climate finance and the sourcing of critical minerals for the green transition.

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