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Only A Quarter Of Britons Concerned About Climate Change

Only a quarter of Britons believe climate change is one of the most important environmental issues facing the UK today, according to a survey conducted by Ipsos MORI and released to the Ecologist this week.

Ambivalence in the UK is in sharp contrast to Asian countries like India, South Korea and Japan where 50 per cent of those polled consider climate change to be one of the most important environmental issues.

The MORI poll involved more than 18,000 people across the world, who were asked to choose the three most important environmental issues facing their country. Of the 24 countries surveyed, the UK was among the least concerned about climate change, with energy security, waste disposal and overpopulation listed as the most pressing environmental issues. Other European countries showed similar results to UK, with people in Germany and Sweden principally concerned with sources of future energy supplies.

Climate researchers put the difference, in part, on the countries susceptibility to climate change. ‘India has much less resilience to climate change and less money for adaptation and mitigation. They have an extremely large population in coastal cities which are sensitive to rising sea levels,’ says Professor Corrine Le Quere, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change. ‘Bangladesh is also the neighbouring country which is very sensitive to rising sea levels so they might have immigration coming from Bangladesh.’

Direct contact with climatic events increases people’s awareness of climate change and makes them more likely to change their own habits, according to previous research by the Tyndall Centre. Professor Le Quere believes this phenomenon, combined with last year’s notoriously cold British winter, may explain why people in the UK are less concerned about climate change.

‘People tend to associate these events on a very short term and this can be a problem for climate policy. The actions that happen today will have impacts in 20 or 30 years and not just regionally, but worldwide.’

Some suggest a need to increase awareness of the links between everyday issues and climate change, which will in turn create more tangible reasons for people to change their habits. The Green Alliance say the survey highlights the need to make a connection between climate change and ‘more concrete things that people care about’ and that the Government’s policy of ‘nudging’, favoured by David Cameron, was doomed to failure.

Dr Simon Buckell, from the Grantham Institute for Climate Change agrees. ‘People won’t sign up to expensive and systemic changes unless they are convinced by the evidence,’ he says. ‘They should be convinced there is a problem we need to do something about and that we have the correct policies to mitigate or adapt to these challenges. Science needs to show how current climate change affects economies and what that can mean going forward. Until people understand if there is, or isn’t a problem, people will be reticent to make a financial commitment.’

MORI researchers urged environmental campaigners to use public concern about energy security to their benefit, suggesting it could provide a ‘hook by which campaigners can nudge the public towards many, if not all, pro-environmental behaviours’.

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the MORI poll confirms the results of this 2010 BBC survey:

Climate scepticism ‘on the rise’, BBC poll shows


The Populus poll of 1,001 adults found 25% did not think global warming was happening, an increase of 10% since a similar poll was conducted in November.
The number of British people who are sceptical about climate change is rising, a poll for BBC News suggests.

The percentage of respondents who said climate change was a reality had fallen from 83% in November to 75% this month.

And only 26% of those asked believed climate change was happening and “now established as largely man-made”.

The findings are based on interviews carried out on 3-4 February.

In November 2009, a similar poll by Populus – commissioned by the Times newspaper – showed that 41% agreed that climate change was happening and it was largely the result of human activities.

BBC graphic (Image: BBC)


“It is very unusual indeed to see such a dramatic shift in opinion in such a short period,” Populus managing director Michael Simmonds told BBC News.

“The British public are sceptical about man’s contribution to climate change – and becoming more so,” he added.

“More people are now doubters than firm believers.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) chief scientific adviser, Professor Bob Watson, called the findings “very disappointing”.

“The fact that there has been a very significant drop in the number of people that believe that we humans are changing the Earth’s climate is serious,” he told BBC News.

“Action is urgently needed,” Professor Watson warned.

“We need the public to understand that climate change is serious so they will change their habits and help us move towards a low carbon economy.”

‘Exaggerated risks’

Of the 75% of respondents who agreed that climate change was happening, one-in-three people felt that the potential consequences of living in a warming world had been exaggerated, up from one-in-five people in November.

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