Majority of People in Britain Accept Climate Change is ‘Happening Right Now’, Survey Shows

Power station on the coast

People across the UK agree that climate change is an immediate threat already taking place, a new survey by the European Perceptions of Climate Change Project shows.

The report published on 8 March explores the public perception of climate change across France, Germany, Norway, and the UK. It finds that in Britain, 86 percent of people agree climate change is happening and almost half (45 percent) believe it will affect “people like me”.

However, while the majority of respondents across Europe accept that climate impacts are occurring, most feel that other countries will be more affected than their own.

As the report explains, the findings show that climate change “is viewed by many as an immediate threat to themselves and to people similar to themselves.

However, this widespread temporal and social closeness to climate change appears to exist in parallel with a prevalent view that climate change will mostly affect other countries.”

Overall, the report concludes that the survey “paints a picture of informed but not alarmed European publics”.

The survey, led by Cardiff University in collaboration with academic teams across the four countries and Climate Outreach, interviewed some 2000 respondents ages 15 and over across Britain in June 2016 ahead of the EU referendum. At the time, issues being pushed during the Brexit campaign were likely to be higher on people’s minds, the report notes.

For instance, only 20 percent of people in Britain said they were very or extremely worried about climate change (38 percent said they were not very worried, or not worried at all). This is compared to France, where 41 percent of people said they were worried.

And while most people understand that the climate is changing and that these changes will be seen through more extreme weather, the number of people who still remain sceptical is the highest in the UK, at 14 percent, compared to just eight percent of people voicing scepticism in France and nine percent in Norway.

The report is quick to point out, however, that scepticism is “not very widespread” and that across the four countries “a clear majority think that climate change is at least partly caused by human activity”.

But while it seems most people understand the science behind climate change, many are still not sure about how many scientists agree about the reality of climate change and it being caused by human activities.

In Britain, for instance, just 30 percent of people think the vast majority of scientists agree about climate change and 28 percent think most scientists do. Meanwhile only five percent think just a small minority of scientists agree.

In reality, there is broad scientific consensus – around 97 percent of all climate scientists agree that climate change is happening and that humans are responsible.

Photo: Gavin Proc via Flickr | CC 2.0

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