These rankings, formed in partnership with global marketing communications company Y&R’s brand strategy firm, BAV Group, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, are based on a study that surveyed more than 21,000 global citizens from four regions to assess perceptions of 80 countries on 75 different metrics. These are the five countries where more than a quarter of survey respondents say climate change is the most pressing issue for world leaders to solve first.
Sea level rise, salt water intrusion and warmer temperatures are making life more difficult for farmers, according to Mike Hoffmann, a professor of entomology and executive director of the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions. In the Mekong River Delta region, where nearly half of the country’s rice is grown, sea level rise could directly affect 1 million people by 2050.
The Laguna de Aculeo, once a popular outdoor vacation destination, has almost entirely dried up, NPR reported in July, depriving locals of business and disrupting their daily lives. Meanwhile, Chile’s glaciers are melting, and in 2017, the country experienced the worst wildfires in its history, leaving more than 2,300 square miles scorched. Pushed in part by these severe weather events, Chile has become a leader in clean energy, with scores of wind farms and solar fields scattered across the country. During the past decade, the number of renewable energy projects grew exponentially, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.
Income inequality is seen as the top issue to solve first in Colombia, with climate change a close second. Most of Colombia’s population lives along the flood-prone coast or high in the Andes mountain range, which is experiencing significant reductions in water supply and biodiversity. Like Chile, Colombia’s glaciers are melting due to rising temperatures.
China’s greatest concern is income inequality, followed by climate change. The country’s heightened climate change concerns could be stoked by fears about the local effects of air pollution – China has some of the worst air quality in the world – but global climate change could also be a worry “given most of their larger cities are on the coast” and are threatened by rising sea levels, says Gross, the Brookings fellow. “They’ve gone from being somewhat politically reluctant on climate to being a little more forward-looking.”
In Mexico, climate change is the second-most pressing issue after income inequality, according to the Best Countries survey. Two earthquakes rocked Mexico two weeks apart in 2017, killing a total of 467 people. Mexico City, located in the mountains in the center of the country, shouldered the brunt of the destruction and about two-thirds of the deaths. While the deadly disasters fueled debate over whether the effects of climate change are accelerating, Mexico is already in the midst of a climate and energy policy shift. In 2012 it was the first developing country to adopt a climate law, according to the Climate Action Tracker. The rule aims to slash carbon emissions by half from 2000 levels by 2050.