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Climate Change still high on public agenda

11 June 2010


A new study by academics in the School of Psychology and the Welsh School of Architecture has revealed the latest public attitudes to climate change.

Led by Professor Nick Pidgeon, Professor of Environment Psychology, the survey has found that despite a decline in concern about climate change, the majority of the British public still believe the climate is changing and say they are prepared to act on this.

Representing the first independent nationwide survey of these topics since the winter controversies over climate science, it finds that belief in climate change remains high at 78 per cent although the numbers believing this has decreased with time (91% in 2005).

The research has also revealed that people are currently somewhat more supportive of nuclear power than in 2005, although significant concerns and negativity remain. That the British population clearly holds much stronger preferences for renewable energy; and that there are very high levels of concern about energy security issues.

Professor Nick PidgeonProfessor Nick Pidgeon

Professor Nick Pidgeon, said: "The country is faced with a range of critical decisions on both climate change and energy production and use which will affect us all. Whether new nuclear power, major wind farms, or encouraging people to conserve energy, we need to understand how public attitudes will impact on decisions. This new research helps us to understand how public views on these issues are changing".

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Leverhulme Trust, the research team surveyed a representative sample of 1,822 people across England, Scotland and Wales.

Other key findings are:

Beliefs about Climate Change

· The majority of respondents (78%) consider that the world’s climate is changing. This represents a significant fall from the very high levels (91%) who believed this in 2005.

· Most people (71%) remain either fairly or very concerned about climate change

· (compared to 82% when asked in 2005).

· Significantly, given recent media controversy surrounding climate change science, a proportion (40%) do consider that the seriousness of climate change is exaggerated, although the majority (57%) still believe that most scientists agree that humans are causing climate change.

· A majority (65%) say they are prepared to reduce their energy use to tackle climate change and most (68%) state they would probably or definitely vote in favour of spending taxpayers’ money on British projects designed to tackle climate change.

Beliefs about Energy Security

· The public is highly concerned that the UK will become too dependent in the future on importing energy from other countries (81% concerned) while over three-quarters (78%) are concerned that electricity will become unaffordable.

Beliefs about Nuclear Power

· The proportion of the sample who agree that the benefits of nuclear power outweigh its risks has risen to 38% in 2010, compared with 32% who said this in 2005.

· On replacement of British nuclear stations 46% favoured this and a similar proportion did not (47%).

· Support for nuclear rises in the context of climate change or energy security with 56% of respondents (compared to 55% in 2005) willing to accept the building of new nuclear power stations if it would help to tackle climate change.

Beliefs about Renewable Energy

· Renewable sources (wind and solar power) remain strongly favoured forms of electricity production.

· However, only 39% of the sample currently favour the construction of a Barrage across the Severn (with 24% slightly or strongly opposed to this proposition).

Commenting on the results, Professor Pidgeon added: "The results do show a rise in those who hold doubts about the reality of climate change, although this may not be as significant as some had first feared. We were surprised to see the very high levels of concern about energy security, and conclude that support exists for an energy policy framed around both the future security of supplies and realistic action to address climate change.

"In terms of developing a low carbon energy economy for Britain, renewables are clearly favoured whilst nuclear power remains unpopular but may be accepted alongside the development of a range of other energy sources."

A full copy of the survey report is available at

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