Majority prefer renewables and efficiency over nuclear future

An overwhelming majority of people favour the promotion of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency measures as the best ways to tackle climate change rather than restarting a nuclear power programme, a new poll has found.

The survey, published this week and carried out by a joint team from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and Ipsos MORI, found that 78% of respondents favoured renewables as the energy choice of the future, while 76% thought energy efficiency and lifestyle changes would be a better way of tackling emissions.

However, it also found that roughly half (54%) of respondents would be willing to accept the building of new nuclear power stations if it would definitely help to tackle climate change – a view that has been doubted by a leading scientist.

The results come as the Government is conducting its review of energy policies – widely believed to favour the nuclear option (see related story) – and is due to report later this year.

Professor Nick Pidgeon, who led the research team, said that the Government recognised the need to take public acceptability into account over future energy options. “However, almost nothing is known about how ordinary people are responding to the new debate about nuclear power and climate change,” he said. “This new research helps us to understand public views on this critical question.”

The results found high levels of concern about climate change among the British public and its findings seem to contradict a variety of polls over the past few years which tend to suggest a lessening of opposition to nuclear power. This new survey shows opposition to nuclear is still high.

It also shows the lack of faith that many people have in democracy these days, as 62% said that it doesn’t matter what the public think of nuclear power as nuclear power stations will be built anyway.

“The survey findings suggest that, given the numbers of people who are opposed to the renewal of nuclear power, there remains considerable potential for conflict around this issue. Additionally, many of those who do accept new nuclear power for Britain do so only reluctantly, and only if renewables and other strategies are developed and used alongside,” Professor Pidgeon added.

“Ordinary people have a more sophisticated understanding of energy futures than many decision makers like to believe. This wider context is something which the Government should take very seriously during its own review.”

Meanwhile, one of Professor Pidgeon’s colleagues at the Tyndall Centre, Dr Kevin Anderson a senior research fellow, has said that claims that nuclear power can solve the problems of climate change are “simplistic” and that we can deal with climate change without nuclear power.

Speaking to The Guardian, Dr Anderson said that the UK could very easily compensate for the loss of energy from closing nuclear stations with simple measures in energy efficiency.

“If you’ve got money to spend on tackling climate change then you don’t spend it on supply. You spend it on reducing demand,” he said.

By David Hopkins

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