Experience of serious harm from severe weather increased from 2019 to 2021

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The World Risk Poll reveals that people’s experience of serious harm from severe weather is one of the areas that has increased the most globally, from 22% in 2019 to 27% 2021. Furthermore, people who have experienced or are worried about severe weather events are more aware of climate change and more likely to see it as a serious threat.

Just over two thirds (67%) of people globally view climate change as a threat to their country, down slightly from 69% in 2019. This includes more than two in five people (41%) who said climate change is ‘a very serious threat’, unchanged from 2019. However, this varies greatly between regions, being highest in Southern Europe (74%) and lowest in Northern Africa (29%).

While the Poll reveals that generally people who have experienced or are worried about severe weather events are more aware of climate change and more likely to see it as a serious threat, this is less true of those with lower levels of education, who are less likely to make the link between severe weather and climate change, despite often suffering the greatest impacts from its consequences.

Severe weather is one of the areas where experience of serious harm has increased the most

People’s experience of serious harm from severe weather rose globally, from 22% in 2019 to 27% 2021.

Education plays an important role

The findings from the Poll demonstrate the importance of education when it comes to perceptions of climate change. 61% of people with at least post-secondary education who had experienced serious harm from severe weather viewed climate change as a very serious threat, compared to 39% of people with primary education or less who had also experienced serious harm from severe weather.

There were exceptions to this. For example, just 15% of people across the Latin America/Caribbean region did not recognise climate change as a very or somewhat serious threat, regardless of the lower levels of education in the region, regardless of lower levels of education in the region. These figures were somewhat higher in Eastern Europe (26%), Northern America (24%) and Australia/New Zealand (19%), showing a greater level of awareness in Latin America and the Caribbean.

By contrast, in two regions — Northern Africa and Eastern Asia — nearly four in 10 people (36%) did not recognise climate change as a threat to their country. In both regions, these high figures may be attributed in part to a lack of awareness among people with lower levels of education.

People who have experienced severe weather events are more aware of climate change

Two thirds (67%) of people said climate change is a threat to their country.

People are more likely to be concerned about climate change when they have experienced severe weather, and when they have the education to recognise it is climate change. So, these findings really highlight the importance of making climate change easier for everyone to understand – and act upon.

Wändi Bruine de Bruin

Provost Professor at the Price School of Public Policy and Dornsife, Department of Psychology, University of Southern California

Where have people experienced most harm from severe weather?

Have you, or someone you personally know, experienced serious harm from severe weather events such as floods or violent storms in the past two years?