Media reporting on the topic is in part contributing towards this trend as journalists tend to treat it as “a topic riven by uncertainty”, resulting in an overall message of inconsistency, researchers say.

This is further compounded by the continuing politicisation of climate change – as the topic falls down the media agenda, this encourages the view that it deserves a lower priority than economic problems, which are seen as more urgent.

The qualitative study of 100 participants, carried out by the Glasgow University Media Group and Chatham House, found that most respondents showed only a vague understanding of climate science.

The aim of the research was to examine specific triggers for changes in patterns of understanding and attitude – and the conditions under which these lead to changes in behaviour.

According to the authors of the study, the sample sizes were deliberately small as the purpose was not to collect data which would be generalised to whole populations.

“Instead the aim was to provide an insight into how beliefs are formed and the way in which opinions and behavioural commitments can be modified,” they stated.

Interestingly, the research also found that there was wide distrust of the UK’s energy companies, perhaps driven by low awareness of energy security issues.

Respondents failed to make the link with possible solutions like renewable technologies, which most agreed are currently not enough to meet the UK’s needs.

They also revealed widespread discontent with the thought of the UK depending on gas imports, coupled with a general belief that there are further exploitable reserves of gas in the North Sea.

Maxine Perella

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