Survey finds growing concern about climate change

Britons’ understanding that climate change is real and man-made steadily becoming more prevalent

A growing majority of British adults (64%) say that climate change is happening, and that it is primarily due to human activity, a survey has found. 

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British people are concerned that climate change will raise flood risk. Image: alh1, creative commons licence

The ComRes survey for the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) also found that, asked about the effects of climate change, harm to wildlife and nature and an increase in flooding are key concerns for the majority of British people (80% and 73% respectively). Three in five are concerned about an increase in variation of availability and price of some foods (60%).

The understanding that climate change is real and man-made has steadily become more widespread since 2014 (57%) and 2015 (59%), when ComRes asked the same questions. Almost seven in ten (69%) believe that almost all or a majority of scientists say climate change is mainly the result of human activities, an eight-percentage point increase since 2015 and a 16 percentage-point increase since 2014.

Marylyn Haines Evans, Chair of the Public Affairs Committee at the National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI) agreed that climate change is a growing concern.

“Like the rest of the British public, WI members are becoming increasingly concerned both about the impact that climate change is having now, and that it will have on our children and grandchildren,” she said.

“The loss of British wildlife and the impact on our countryside is one of their biggest worries. Increased risk of flooding, and the impact the changes to the climate can have on the cost of food, also highlight how the problem is becoming all too real to British people.”

Professor Joanna Haigh, Co-Director of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London, welcomed the evidence that understanding of climate change is growing.

“For people who have worked on climate change for decades, the finding that people recognise the sheer weight of scientific evidence is extremely heartening,” she said.

“But as the climate system sends increasingly urgent signals of the stress it is coming under, this understanding must be turned into action to address to the problem. We have the means to avoid the very worst impacts of climate change, and create a cleaner, healthier society – all it takes is the will.”

Andrew Hawkins, chairman of ComRes, highlighted the ‘discernible shift’ in public opinion.

“Over just three years there has been a discernible shift in public opinion towards acceptance that climate change is both happening and mainly caused by human activity.  Seven in ten now believe that almost all, or a majority, of climate scientists believe the same,” he said.

“The significance of this is that the public are becoming increasingly willing to see polluting energy sources phased out, to adopt alternative technologies and accept public policy changes to shift behaviour.”

ComRes interviewed 2,045 British adults online between the 1st and 2nd February 2017. Data were weighted according to age, gender, region and social grade to be nationally representative of adults aged 18+. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. The data tables are available on request. The survey and data table can also be found at www.comres.co.uk, or on the ECIU website