Climate change is biggest global threat, say Britons

Almost half of all Britons see climate change as the biggest threat to the world - more than terrorism or war - according to the latest opinion poll results.

Asked to name the most serious threat to the planet, 48% of all respondents to the Ipsos MORI poll came up with global warming or climate change, compared with 20% who said terrorism.

And it would appear that public opinion has shifted significantly over the last two years: 12% more people pointed to global warming when asked to choose the most serious global threat facing the world in 2006 compared to 2004.

“Two years ago, concern about terrorism was well ahead of global warming,” said Ipsos MORI’s head of environmental John Leaman, who led the research.

However, when asked about the greatest menace to Britain, terrorism remains the top concern, alongside population growth.

Young and middle-aged respondents were the most concerned about climate change, with over half of the 35-55 age group citing it as the biggest global menace, but only 44% of the over-55s.

It was also the over-55s who were the most likely to think that the issue was being hyped up: 28% of respondents in this age group thought that too much fuss was being made over climate change, as compared with only 15% of 25 – 34-year-olds.

The spectacular rise of climate change in the public consciousness was been fuelled by media attention, John Leaman believes:

“People are very sensitive about issues that are not news topics, as climate change undoubtedly is. They are now far more aware that climate change is real, and not simply in the imagination of scientists or environmentalists,” he said.

As much as 68% of people said that they had personally experienced the effects of climate change, the survey found.

When it came to doing something about global warming, 28% said this should be the Government’s job, while 11% put the responsibility down to ordinary citizens. And exactly half of the respondents said that they would use their cars less if fuel prices doubled.

Commenting on the results, the Environment Agency’s deputy chairman Ted Cantle said that they showed a public readiness for stronger regulation on climate change, without which he believed Britain would not undertake effective action.

“The climate of public opinion has changed. The time is right to change our approach now,” said Ted Cantle.

“We have to realise that laws and regulations quickly get internalised in the value system,” he continued, calling for a change from the “choice agenda” with “industry choosing in a semi-regulated environment” to explicit regulations that would steer businesses and individuals in a climate-friendly direction.

Only through strengthening regulation could Britain ensure that climate change mitigation work would be “front-loaded” rather than leaving it to the last minute, or missing the boat altogether, he said.

Goska Romanowicz

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