What do Brits really believe about climate action and net-zero?
Almost half (47%) of adults in Britain are overwhelmed by climate-related information, which they often find to be conflicting. So, what are the general public really thinking about environmental issues this season?
The UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published the latest edition of its quarterly public attitudes trackers this week. These surveys were sent to more than 20,000 adults – a representative sample of socioeconomic demographics. More than 4,100 people responded, providing a handy snapshot of public sentiment on climate and energy issues.
It could be argued that this latest edition is very timely. We are now one month out from COP27 and negotiations are ongoing for biodiversity COP15. Climate disinformation has been rife on Twitter, with some denying the global temperature increase due to the cold snap currently gripping the UK.
BEIS found that these people are a minority. 45% of people say they are “very concerned” about climate change, with a further 38% being fairly concerned”. Only 3% of people are “not at all concerned”. These proportions have been fairly consistent over the past year. Levels of concern were found to be higher for women than for men, and higher in those educated to degree level.
Here, we summarise – in handy bullet points – some of the other key findings from this round of BEIS’s public attitudes tracker research.
- Only 10% of people in the UK have never heard of the concept of ‘net-zero emissions’ or ‘net-zero carbon dioxide’, down slightly from 13% last Autumn.
- 16% of people say they know ‘a lot’ about net-zero, up slightly on a quarterly basis from 14%. A further 35% say they know ‘a fair amount’.
- Almost half of people (47%) are overwhelmed by climate-related information, which they often find to be conflicting.
Trust in climate-related information
- The most-trusted information sources are scientists working at universities, and scientific organisations. Four in ten Brits trust these sources “a great deal”.
- The least trusted information sources are posts on social media, which only 15% of people trust to some extent. Four in ten people do not trust climate information circulated on social media at all. Newspapers and newspaper websites, plus the UK Government itself, are also failing to garner high levels of trust.
- 30% of people believe that the media exaggerates the risks and impacts of cimate change.
- 28% of people believe that it is not worth taking climate action if others are not already doing the same.
- 85% of people think individual behavioural changes have a role to play in combatting the climate crisis.
- The least common behavioural change is driving an electric car. Just 10% of people surveyed said they do this.
- The most common individual environmental action is recycling waste – something 86% of people say they do.
Opinions on renewable energy
- 88% of people support the use of renewable energy. Support has remained consistently high over the past 12 months when all technologies are accounted for.
- Solar is now the most-supported technology option, with 59% of people identifying as “strong supporters”, up from 55% last autumn.
- – Opposition is highest for biomass (6% in strong opposition) and onshore wind (4% in strong opposition).
- Three-quarters of people (74%) believe that renewable energy developments bring economic benefits to the UK
- Only 12% of people would be unhappy for an onshore wind farm to be developed in their local area, falling to 7% for a solar farm. The main concerns were the development making the view less attractive; the potential impact on nature and the potential impact on house prices.
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