Public concern on climate change at its highest in 10 years following UK floods

Belief in the reality of climate change and its human causes is at its highest level amongst the British public since 2005, having significantly risen in the past year following the recent storms and flooding.

A report by Cardiff University published today (29 January) – Public perceptions of climate change in Britain following the winter 2013/2014 flooding – focused on people’s responses to the series of exceptional flooding events that affected the UK in late 2013 and early 2014.

“Our findings demonstrate that an association between last year’s winter flooding and climate change has been forming in the minds of many ordinary people in Britain, who also view these events as a sign of things to come,” said Cardiff University’s School of Psychology’s Professor Nick Pidgeon.

The report found that 88% of people agree that the world’s climate is changing, close to the highest level in 2005 of 91%. 76% of respondents said that they had personally noticed signs of climate change during their lifetime, with 39% identifying changing weather patterns or extreme weather; 27% saying heavy rainfall, floods, or rising river levels.

Scotland saw the wettest December in 2014 since records began and for southern England January 2014 was the wettest since 1910 resulting in the widespread flooding seen across the UK between December 2013 and February 2014.

Future floods

Climate change was seen by 61% of people as a contributing factor to last years’ flooding, although more people saw poor flood defences, river and coastal management and development in flood prone areas as having a ‘great deal’ of impact.

A clear majority (72%) feel more flooding can be expected in the future as a result of climate change.

11% of people see climate change as one of the three most important issues facing the UK today, although this increases to 15% when the timeframe is expanded to the next twenty years. The response is even higher, at 29%, among people directly affected by last winter’s flooding.

74% of people surveyed in the national sample supported the UK signing up to international agreements to limit carbon emissions designed to stop further climate change.

Commenting on the report, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit’s (ECIU) director Richard Black said: “This study clearly shows that people recognise the climate is changing and are as concerned about it as they are about crime and education. But as our own research found late last year, there is a desperate lack of clarity on some basic questions such as the extent of the scientific consensus coming through to people from leaders and the media.”

“The door is now open for leaders in society and in particular in politics to communicate clearly and plainly with citizens, outlining the risks posed by climate change and whether or not they propose to tackle them.”

Lucinda Dann

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