Swedes fear environmental destruction and North Americans corruption

What do people in Sweden and the U.S. fear most?

It's always fun to compare results among countries, especially when it concerns cultural attitudes. So when I happened to find the american version of top 10 fears, that I just published a post about on my Swedish blog Resurstoppen, I simply had to make a comparison.
Based on data from: SOM-institutet

Now, I am biased since I think ecosystem destruction and climate change poses much bigger threats to humanity than terrorism or cyber warfare. This is the sane position most rational individuals would take, I think. If we don't have clean drinking water or a stable climate then why bother worrying about anything else really. However, most people worry about things that are more regional or national in scale than global. That's just human nature.
Based on data from: Wilkinson College of Arts

Real or imagined threats?

Anyway, let's go through some of the topics listed in the two diagrams and assess the threats, the risk they pose, i.e. how likely and with what potential impacts (serious, medium, low). 

Threat 1. Environmental destruction/Climate Change
Human engineering has left a mark on 83 per cent of the planet. At the time of the Roman Empire Earth held about 1000 billion tonnes of carbon in living biomass (plants and animals) but since then humans have consumed about half of that, leaving only 550 billion tonnes of carbon in biomass. This probably means that we have destroyed at least 50% of terrestrial ecosystems. A limit that many scientists believe we should not pass since it could trigger a state shift in the biosphere. As for climate change, given a climate sensitivity of about 3C for doubled CO2e, atmospheric concentration of CO2 must be reduced from its current 400 to 350 ppmv, to maintain the relative Holocene climate stability within which civilization has evolved. In other words, this threat is very likely and with serious consequences. 

Threat 2. Government Corruption
The US have long expensive political campaigns that are privately funded by big corporations that thus have power over decision making. Elected officials spend 30-70% of their time on fundraising. The financial and fossil fuel industry (among others) have spent billions on lobbying for the removal of critical regulations (i.e. regulatory capture). It's basically a case of legalized corruption. Institutional corruption has eroded trust which makes the country socially unstable. And we have seen an increase in protests and uprisings due to police corruption. In Sweden we don't have those kinds of problems, sure some corruption occurs, especially in the construction sector and some municipalities. So this is a likely threat with medium consequences for americans but not for Swedes.

Threat 3. Terrorism
A U.S government report stated that only 17 americans were killed worldwide as a result of terrorism in 2011, including deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to some sources a U.S. citizen is 35,079 more times likely to die from heart disease or 33,842 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack. In Sweden there have been no deaths from terrorist attacks, as far as I know. In any case people are much more likely to die in a car crash. In other words, the threat from terrorist attacks is low and very unlikely.


Out of the ashes into the fire

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