The British public is becoming more aware of the scientific consensus that exists around climate change, according to new survey results.
A new survey conducted by ComRes for the UK’s Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) concluded that the majority of British adults believe that climate change is a) happening and b) mainly caused by human activities. Furthermore, the number of British citizens who believe there is a scientific consensus surrounding climate change increased dramatically since 2014, up from only 53% to 61%. When digging deeper into this, however, only 16% of those surveyed believe that “almost all” scientists “believe that climate change is mainly the result of human activities,” while 45% believe it is “a majority.”
“Growing awareness of the scientific consensus on climate change is an important finding, because good understanding helps citizens to engage knowledgably with the democratic process,” said the Earl of Selborne, the Conservative Peer who chairs the House of Lords Select Committee for Science and Technology and is a member of the ECIU Advisory Board.
“But a substantial gap between perception and reality remains, which is troubling. It poses a challenge to opinion leaders, notably in politics and the media, to communicate facts clearly to the general public so they appreciate the rationale for climate change policies.”
On top of a growing belief in a scientific consensus, the British public is also more likely to desire an increase in the amount of renewable energy. When asked what options (if any) respondents wanted to see replace coal generation for electricity, 69% placed renewable energy in the top 3 options (with 42% of the total placing renewable energy first).
The ECIU conducted the survey “to detect changes in public understanding” a year after asking the same questions in its initial launch survey.
Exactly what is responsible for these increases in public awareness is unclear, however as the ECIU highlight, Robin Lustig, the journalist and broadcaster who presented BBC Radio Four’s The World Tonight for 23 years, and also a member of the ECIU Advisory Board, believes it could be the result of the media doing a better job of conveying the facts to the general public.
“It’s obvious that the media have a crucial role to play in conveying accurate information to listeners, viewers and readers, and these small but significant rises in the number of people who are accurately informed suggest that journalists and editors may now be doing a better job,” said Lustig. “But there is clearly a long way to go on both these issues, and it’s a shame that there are still too many articles and programmes suggesting that climate science is discredited or that the public hate renewable energy.”
These survey results come at a critical time in the UK’s environmental growth, following in the wake of a number of dramatic cuts to the country’s financial support mechanisms for renewable energy development. Just this week a new campaign was launched between RenewableUK and the Solar Trade Association “opposing the Government’s plans to cut financial support to small-scale renewables, including wind turbines and solar panels.” The campaign, People Power, “is calling for members of the public, as well as the thousands of renewable energy employees, to petition the Government to provide more stable support to these maturing sectors by writing to their local MP and harnessing the power of social media.”