Survey reveals 'discernible shift' towards public acceptance of climate change

A rising majority of British adults understand that climate change is real and is primarily caused by human activity, according to a new survey published by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU).

An increase in flooding is the biggest climate-related concern for 73% of British adults

An increase in flooding is the biggest climate-related concern for 73% of British adults

The ComRes poll, which surveyed 2,045 British adults, found that 64% believed that man-made climate change is happening, an increase on the 57% who agreed with this view in 2014. Damage to wildlife and nature and an increase in flooding are the chief concerns for UK citizens, at 80% and 73% respectively.

“Over just three years there has been a discernible shift in public opinion towards acceptance that climate change is both happening and mainly caused by human activity,” ComRes chairman Andrew Hawkins said.

“The significance of this is that the public are becoming increasingly willing to see polluting energy sources phased out, to adopt alternative technologies and accept public policy changes to shift behaviour.”

‘Point of no return’

Seven in 10 respondents believe that almost all or a majority of scientists say climate change is mainly the result of human activities, up 16% from the 2014 survey. Meanwhile, three in five are concerned about an increase in variation of availability and price of some foods.

The poll follows a Government public attitudes tracker published last week which showed that 74% of Brits support renewable energy, while more people are opposed to fracking than support it.

Commenting on this latest survey, Imperial College London Grantham Institute co-director Professor Joanna Haigh said: “For people who have worked on climate change for decades, the finding that people recognise the sheer weight of scientific evidence is extremely heartening.

“But as the climate system sends increasingly urgent signals of the stress it is coming under, this understanding must be turned into action to address to the problem. We have the means to avoid the very worst impacts of climate change, and create a cleaner, healthier society – all it takes is the will.”

WWF-UK head of climate and energy Gareth Redmond-King added that the poll is a “wakeup call” to the Government to issue an Emissions Reduction Plan that will reduce the UK’s carbon emissions to agreed levels by 2030, or else “we may pass the point of no return”.

No more excuses

The study comes as new research shows that 58% of the British public believe that current levels of air pollution in the UK are harmful or very harmful to public health. That poll, conducted by YouGov, found that 65% would support a new Clean Air Act to tackle the issue.

Annually, an estimated 40,000 early deaths across the UK are caused by rising air pollution levels, which breached annual limits in London just five days into 2017. The new study was commissioned by environmental law firm ClientEarth, which recently won its High Court case against the UK Government over the failure of ministers to tackle illegal air quality levels.

“This poll clearly shows that people across the UK want the Prime Minister to get serious about the toxic and illegal levels of air pollution,” said ClientEarth chief executive – and edie's Sustainability Leader of the Year – James Thornton.

“This is an urgent public health crisis over which the Prime Minister must take personal control. She must listen to the country and come up with a credible plan that will reduce air pollution as soon as possible, so we are not choking on illegal levels of pollution until 2025 or beyond.

"The time for excuses is over.”

George Ogleby


Tags

air quality | opinion | Climate change strategy | Green Policy

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Climate change
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