Donald Trump and nuclear war among biggest threats to humanity say Nobel winners

Updated: 

Nobel Prize winners consider nuclear war and US President Donald Trump as among the gravest threats to humanity, a survey has found.

More than a third (34%) said environmental issues including over-population and climate change posed the greatest risk to mankind, according to the poll by Times Higher Education and Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings.

But amid rising tensions between the US and North Korea, almost a quarter (23%) said nuclear war was the most serious threat.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second right, speaks with officials
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second right, speaks with officials (AP)

Of the 50 living Nobel Prize winners canvassed, 6% said the ignorance of political leaders was their greatest concern - with two naming Mr Trump as a particular problem.

Peter Agre, who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2003, described the US President as "extraordinarily uninformed and bad-natured".

He told Times Higher Education: "Trump could play a villain in a Batman movie - everything he does is wicked or selfish."

US President Donald Trump speaks in Springfield, Mo
US President Donald Trump speaks in Springfield, Mo (Jeff Roberson/AP)

Laureates for chemistry, physics, physiology, medicine and economics took part in the survey, with some highlighting more than one threat. Peace Prize and Literature Prize recipients were not canvassed.

Infectious diseases and drug resistance were considered the gravest threats to humankind by 8% of respondents, while 8% cited selfishness and dishonesty and 6% cited terrorism and fundamentalism.

Another 6% spoke of the dangers of "ignorance and the distortion of truth".

Despite high-profile figures Elon Musk and Professor Stephen Hawking expressing concern about the dangers associated with artificial intelligence, just two of those surveyed identified it as among the biggest threats facing humans.

John Gill, editor of Times Higher Education, said the survey offers "a unique insight into the issues that keep the world's greatest scientific minds awake at night".

He said: "There is a consensus that heading off these dangers requires political will and action, the prioritisation of education on a global scale, and above all avoiding the risk of inaction through complacency."