Climate change scepticism

May 27, 2010, 9:47 PM GMT+0

The British public is becoming less, not more, concerned about climate change, a survey for energy company EDF has found. Considering the structure of the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government, it is interesting to note a significant difference in the views of the two parties’ supporters on these issues. Liberal Democrat supporters are the most likely to be interested in global warming and climate change, at 79%, compared to 53% of Conservative supporters.

The survey results indicate that concern for global warming and climate change is continuing to decrease. Although 28% of the public agreed with the statement that ‘it is a serious and urgent problem and radical steps must be taken NOW to prevent terrible damage being done to the planet’, this is down from 38% who agreed in 2007; a ten percent drop in three years. Again, far more Liberal Democrat supporters think this way (43%) than supporters of the Conservatives (18%).

‘Not clear whether climate change is happening or not’

Given the intense media attention surrounding leaked documents from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, which suggested that data that was not consistent with theories supporting global warming were being deliberately withheld, it is perhaps not surprising that more are becoming sceptical about the existence of climate change. One third (33%) of the public now agrees with the statement ‘it is not yet clear whether climate change is happening or not – scientists are divided on this issue’, compared to only 25% in 2007.There also seem to be many more sceptics among Conservative supporters, 43% of whom agreed with the statement. Only 20% of Liberal Democrat supporters thought the same.

Nuclear power, hailed by some as a green power alternative, appears to be gaining support as a source for Britain’s future energy. As most of Britain’s older nuclear and coal power stations will come to an end of their useful lives by about 2020, a substantial ‘power gap’ will need to be filled. 52% of Britons now support the gap being filled by new nuclear power stations (up six percent from 46% in 2007), while 64% agree with the statement ‘nuclear energy has disadvantages but the country needs it as part of the energy balance, with coal, gas and wind power’ (an increase of five percent from 59% in 2007). Just 18% now agree that ‘the most important thing is stop building nuclear power stations’ compared to 24% in 2007. And while the source of power may be in dispute, the need for Britain to be self-sufficient in energy seems irrefutable: 90% now agree with this, exactly the same as did in 2007.

Cross-party support

And it seems that nuclear power is an attractive option across all parties as well. Despite Lib Dem supporters being slightly less in favour of nuclear power than their Labour or Conservative counterparts, they still nevertheless agree with all the statements suggesting the use of nuclear power. The majority of Liberal Democrat supporters agree that nuclear energy is still ‘needed as part of the energy balance with coal, gas and wind power’ (58%, compared to 64% for Labour and 74% for the Conservatives), and that old nuclear power stations should be replaced by new ones and other renewable energy sources (60% compared to 66% and 67%). There is also NET agreement (i.e. the percentage that agree subtracted from the percentage that disagree) amongst Lib Dems that ‘regulations should be changed to make it easier to build nuclear power stations’ (17%). There is a NET score of 26% for Lib Dem supporters disagreeing that ‘the most important thing is to stop building of nuclear power stations’, thereby concurring with Labour (29% net) and Conservative (50% net) supporters on this issue.

This net support goes a long way to suggest that despite decreasing levels of concern for climate change, other energy sources are being considered. It seems nuclear energy, along with an expansion of renewable sources, is seen as the most viable way forward for the UK’s energy supply, and may even point to a general welcoming of the Coalition government’s recent energy proposals.

Additional editing by Hannah Thompson and Laurence Janta-Lipinski

Survey details and results