Survey highlights UK public misconception on climate and energy


Widespread misconceptions on climate change remain among the UK public, with just one in nine (11%) fully understanding the strength of the scientific consensus, according to a new survey commissioned by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU). Launching today, the ECIU – a non-profit aimed at supporting communicators and promoting informed, evidence-based debate on climate change and energy – said the survey highlights the “huge gap between reality and perception” on climate change and has “uncomfortable echoes” of the MMR controversy 15 years ago. Conducted by ComRes, it shows that nearly half of the population (47%) believe climate scientists either reject the idea human activities are the main cause of climate change or are evenly split on the issue. This is in stark contrast to recent studies that show over 90% of climate scientists agree that human activity is the main driver. The data also comes as media reports on leaked Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change drafts, due for finalisation in October, reaffirm scientists’ conclusions that climate change is here, man-made and already having dangerous consequences. With crucial decisions for UK energy and climate policies needed in the next few years the ECIU warns it is “vital that people are aware of what the evidence is and that it’s communicated clearly”.


RT ‏@straitgateactgp Almost 90% UK citizens unaware of scientific consensus on #climate change, poll shows




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Survey Key Findings

  • Only 5% of the British public know that renewables such as solar and wind are supported by the significant majority (around 80%) of the population. Two-thirds estimated support at under 50%.
  • Half of the population say the winter floods strengthened their belief that the climate is changing, and a quarter (27%) say the floods also strengthened their belief in human activity as the main cause.
  • One in seven (14%) think ‘green energy’ policies have increased their energy bills a great deal. 37% think they have increased bills somewhat, and 34% they have made no difference.
  • Nearly half (46%) of the population think shale gas exploitation would make no difference to energy bills. 27% think it will reduce bills, and 16% foresee an increase.
  • The public view the BBC as the most important news organisation for information on energy and climate issues. 62% said it was one of their top three most used news sources on the topics.
  • ITV and Sky came out as the 2nd and 3rd most used sources (27% and 15% respectively).
  • The Daily Mail was the most used newspaper at 14%.
  • The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit is a non-profit organisation supporting informed debate on energy and climate change issues in the UK. Its Advisory Board reflects the breadth of society’s interest in energy and climate issues. It includes climate scientists, energy policy experts and economists, as well as a range of other stakeholders including MPs and Peers.

Key Quotes

  • “This survey shows that there’s a huge gap between reality and perception on some key climate and energy issues. These are important findings given that the UK has crucial decisions to make on our response to climate change and our energy system in the next few years. As a nation we can only make sensible choices if we’re properly informed, so it’s vital that people are aware of what the evidence is and that it’s communicated clearly. The breakdown between the views of scientists and the public on climate change is a particular concern. This feels reminiscent of the situation around MMR where most Britons thought the medical profession was split on the safety of the vaccine whereas doctors were virtually unanimous that it was safe.” – Richard Black, director of the ECIU
  • “The perceived lack of consensus among climate scientists is striking – particularly as scientists are one of the most trusted groups in society. As outliers of opinion are often memorable and debate among some groups remains, it is for the scientific community to communicate a strong evidence-based message to the media and through them the public.” – Katharine Peacock, managing director of ComRes
  • “I’ve had an interest in climate change since my term as Environment Secretary in the 1990s, and I’ve also followed progress in low-carbon technologies such as nuclear power with great interest. I decided to lend ECIU my advice because I think it can have a beneficial role in improving communication in the very important areas of energy and climate change.” – ECIU Advisory Board member Lord Howard of Lympne
  • “I was fortunate enough to be involved in passage of the Climate Change Act in 2008 – it passed virtually without demur and with support from all parties. Since then, the evidence that climate change presents significant risks to the UK has only strengthened, a fact that’s not always reflected in the wider public conversation. People need every scrap of possible help to inform themselves of the growing body of evidence, because only then will we be in a position to make sensible social and political decisions.” – ECIU Advisory Board member Lord Puttnam of Queensgate
  • “The scientific evidence that man-made climate change is real and presents significant risks is incredibly robust. But that doesn¹t always come across to the public, as the ECIU survey shows. In my view it¹s vital that we bridge that gap, so that people are able to separate fact from fiction, enabling society as a whole to make informed decisions about our future.” – ECIU Advisory Board member Dr Emily Shuckburgh
  • “The Women’s Institutes have always taken an active interest in issues that affect women both in the UK and all over the world, and few issues are more challenging than climate change. But that’s what it is – a challenge – and we need to deal with it in the same way that women have always dealt with challenges. I’m looking forward to working with ECIU and getting people more involved in finding practical solutions to the problems before us.” – ECIU Advisory Board member Marylyn Haines Evans

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