More than half of millennials fear there will be a nuclear attack somewhere in the world within the next decade, according to a survey by the Red Cross released on Thursday.
Some 47 percent of respondents to the poll of 16,000 young people also believed it was more likely than not that there would be a third world war in their lifetime.
“Millennials appear to see cataclysmic war as a real likelihood in their lifetime,” Peter Maurer, president of the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross, said in a foreword to the report.
Adults aged between 20 and 35 took part in the survey – both in war-torn countries such as Afghanistan and Syria and largely peaceful ones like Britain and France.
The Red Cross used online panels, face to face interviews, and telephone interviews to reach people in 16 countries.
The most striking result came in reply to the question: “In your opinion, how likely or unlikely is it that nuclear weapons will be used in wars or armed conflicts anywhere in the world within the next 10 years?”
Some 54 percent said they felt it was likely such weapons would be used.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ famous “doomsday clock” -updated every year since 1947 – currently stands at “two minutes to midnight.” The organization is set to update its assessment later this month.
“Humanity now faces two simultaneous existential threats, either of which would be cause for extreme concern and immediate attention,” the bulletin’s 2019 report found.
“These major threats—nuclear weapons and climate change—were exacerbated this past year.”
The ICRC said the survey also revealed some “worrying trends,” such as the answers they received to the question: “In your opinion, is torturing captured enemy combatants acceptable under some circumstances or is it never acceptable?”
Some 41 percent said they would support torture in some circumstances.
And just 54 percent had heard of the Geneva Conventions, agreed in 1949 to protect prisoners of war and civilians in war time in response to the horrors of the Second World War.
Maurer said the results also revealed “a worrying acceptance of dehumanizing language or actions towards perceived or real ‘enemies’ that is prevailing in an era of fake news, disinformation, and polarised viewpoints.”
But there was some optimism, such as the 60 percent of Syrians polled who said they believed the current civil conflict would end within the next five years.
Syrians also had the highest support among respondents for showing humanity in war, with 85 percent saying captured combatants should be allowed to contact relatives and 70 percent saying torture was never acceptable.
The highest support for torture of captured enemy combatants was in Israel, Nigeria and the United States.
The Red Cross is a humanitarian institution established in 1863 with a mandate to protect the victims of conflict.