Belief in climate change 'drops' in the UK

Glacier Forty percent of people believe climate change is exaggerated

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Fewer people in the UK believe in global climate change compared with five years ago, a Cardiff University survey says.

Seventy one percent of people now believe the world's climate is changing compared with 91% in 2005.

The independent survey follows the 2009 UN climate talks and a controversy over leaked e-mails by scientists at the University of East Anglia.

Researchers questioned 1,800 people as part of the survey.

Professor Nick Pidgeon said: "The results do show a rise in those who hold doubts about the reality of climate change."

Cutting emissions

He added: "Although this may not be as significant as some had first feared.

The survey of 1,800 people in England, Wales and Scotland was conducted in the wake of the UN climate talks in Copenhagen last December, which delivered a non-binding accord on cutting emissions. The accord was judged by some to have been a failure.

Start Quote

Whether new nuclear power, major wind farms, or encouraging people to conserve energy, we need to understand how public attitudes will impact on decisions”

End Quote Professor Nick Pidgeon Cardiff University

People were also surveyed amid debate about a series of leaked e-mails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit. Critics had suggested that the e-mail exchanges revealed an attempt by the researchers involved to manipulate data.

However an independent inquiry panel into the matter concluded there was no scientific malpractice at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit.

The survey also followed an apology from the international scientific body which produces reviews on global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

It was forced to apologise for mistakes in its most recent report published in 2007.

The report contained a prediction that Himalayan glaciers were likely to disappear by 2035.

The IPCC later said the prediction was "poorly substantiated" and resulted from a lapse in standards.

Despite the controversies most people (71%) remain either fairly or very concerned about climate change, compared to 82% when asked in 2005, the survey shows.

Media controversy

More than half (57%) still believe that most scientists agree that humans are causing climate change, while 40% do consider that the seriousness of climate change is exaggerated.

The survey also found:

  • 65% say they are prepared to reduce their energy use to tackle climate change and 68% state they would probably or definitely vote in favour of spending taxpayers' money on British projects designed to tackle climate change
  • 81% are highly concerned that the UK will become too dependent in the future on importing energy from other countries while over 78% are concerned that electricity will become unaffordable
  • 38% of people agree that the benefits of nuclear power outweigh its risks compared with 32% who said this in 2005
  • 39% of the sample currently favour the construction of a Barrage across the Severn with 24% slightly or strongly opposed

Professor 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."

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