68% agree humanity is causing climate change, while skeptics “represent a fringe position”
The public’s belief in global warming as a man-made danger has weathered the storm of climate controversies and cold weather intact, according to a Guardian/ICM opinion poll published today.
Asked if climate change was a current or imminent threat, 83% of Britons agreed, with just 14% saying global warming poses no threat. Compared with August 2009, when the same question was asked, opinion remained steady despite a series of events in the intervening 18 months that might have made people less certain about the perils of climate change
So the emails — which originated in Britain — had no noticeable impact, nor did a couple of “trivial mistakes” in the IPCC. This suggests the British public understands that, after multiple vindications, the notion that a few cherry-picked quotes from e-mails undermined the overwhelming scientific understanding of climate science was just B.S.*
These findings are consistent with recent U.S. polling by Stanford (see “The vast majority of Americans know global warming is real,” discussed below).
But perhaps the most remarkable finding by the Guardian is the impact of the cold winter on British views of climate change:
The UK also suffered two unusually cold winters in 2009 and 2010. But three times more people said the freezing weather had actually made them worry more about global warming than those who were less worried. The finding runs counter to the idea that people are influenced more by local conditions than by reports of globally rising temperatures. It may also indicate an understanding of how warming is projected to increase extreme weather events and that people distinguish between changes in short-term weather and long-term climate.
Looks like the British public may be following the science closer these days and beginning to discern the role global warming is playing in extreme winter weather.
This is doubly impressive given the general decline in the quality of British coverage of climate science and the prominence of climate science deniers in British newspapers (see “And the 2010 Citizen Kane award for non-excellence in climate journalism goes to “¦” and Must-see Delingpole meltdown on BBC: “It is not my job to sit down and read peer-reviewed papers because I simply haven’t got the time”¦. I am an interpreter of interpretations”).
A large majority of people think that humanity is causing climate change, with 68% agreeing and 24% choosing to blame non-man-made factors, which again is very close to the August 2009 response, with figures of 71% and 23% respectively. In 2007, the UN’s science panel collated the work of thousands of scientists to conclude that the link between the emission of greenhouse gases by human activities and climate change was 90% certain.
While climate sceptics remain a vocal presence in some parts of the climate change debate, the new poll shows them to represent a fringe position. An analysis of those who think climate change poses no threat reveals them to be predominantly men (70%) and about twice as likely to be over 65 and to have voted Conservative in 2010 than the general population.
Yes, UK skeptics are predominately old conservative guys — I know that comes as a big shock to you all.
No doubt part of the reason that denial does not appear to have taken hold in Britain is that leading conservative UK politicians have remained consistent in their public statements about the strength of climate science and the need to take action (see “U.S. conservatives vs. U.K. conservatives“).
These findings also suggest it’s a myth that climate science is a subject that leading politicians shouldn’t talk about. Indeed, a poll last summer by Stanford concluded, “Democrats and Independents are likely to back candidates who propose action on global warming.” They surveyed voters in three states and found large majorities of Florida, Maine, and Massachusetts residents believe that global warming is real””and that humans are causing it [click to enlarge]:
Public sentiment is no excuse for not talking about global warming or for not taking immediate action on reducing emissions.