Climate change is not a top concern to British people compared to other serious global problems – and most people doubt there is any political will to tackle it
The secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, will join demonstrators marching for action on climate change this weekend ahead of a UN summit on 23 September. The summit will bring together world leaders including Barack Obama and David Cameron to discuss ways to cut greenhouse gases and mobilise political will for a new international climate change agreement at a key meeting in 2015.
Recent reports suggest climate change would have wide-ranging impacts, leading to war, famine and extreme weather. A new YouGov survey, however, finds that British people remain more concerned about problems like those – incluing terrorism, poverty and war – than climate change itself.
Climate change comes out ahead of only energy scarcity and nuclear weapons. Terrorism, poverty and armed conflict are the most common concerns, followed by disease and population growth.
Climate change is seen as equally serious to the global economic situation, usually a top priority at the domestic level. To 18-24 year-old British people climate change ranks third, putting it on par with armed conflict, but still behind terrorism and poverty.
China and India have indicated that they will not be sending their highest-ranking officials to the UN summit. Most British people (61%) disagree that a lack of seriousness from countries like China and India gives Britain an excuse not to do anything about it. However 73% think there is no serious political will worldwide to tackle it. There has been virtually no change in the public's point of view since YouGov asked the same two questions four months after the chaotic 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, where diplomats failed to reach a binding treaty to curb greenhouse gas emmissions.
Domestically, the publc has also see little progress from the UK government on environmental issues. Today, as in 2012, just 2% think the coalition has lived up to David Cameron's pledge to lead the "greenest government ever". Only 17% think the current government has even been greener than average.