photo by db™ (source: Flickr Creative Commons)

A new survey of UK residents conducted by the University of Cardiff shows that public acceptance of climate change is alive and well in Britain.

From an article in the Guardian:

The survey showed that almost three-quarters (71%) of Britons are concerned about climate change. Some 78% think the climate is changing, which is down from 91% who said it was in a similar poll in 2005.

In recent months, a considerable amount of fanfare has been given to a decline in public opinion regarding the veracity of climate change or global warming in both the US and UK. But new polls – as well as reinterpretations of existing polls – show that faith in climate science and climate change remain strong in both countries.

While it is true that several recent polls have shown a rise in skepticism concerning what the scientific establishment says about anthropogenic climate change, the vast majority still trusts the science.

For example, a BBC poll from February showed that Britons’ belief in global warming fell from 83% to 75% since November 2009. A significant drop, but still a more than healthy majority. A Populus poll, commissioned by the London Times and visible via the same link, showed an even starker rise in climate skepticism in the UK. A Gallup poll of Americans, published in March, also showed a drop in ‘global warming concerns’.

These polls all followed a particularly cold winter for most of Europe and the US, plus a couple of scandals involving the IPCC and climate scientists at University of East Anglia, both of which received lots of media attention and helped stoke political and public debate.

…a closer look at these polls and a new survey by my Political Psychology Research Group show just the opposite: huge majorities of Americans still believe the earth has been gradually warming as the result of human activity and want the government to institute regulations to stop it.

–New York Times op-ed

If belief in climate change is based on personal observations of local weather, it is just as likely to sway the other way if we experience a hot summer this year. Furthermore, the leader of the study at the University of Cardiff believes that the email scandal probably simply served to entrench already existing opinions on the issue. Economic health and the BP disaster also seem to play a part in public opinion, as indicated by a similar American survey by Yale and George Mason Universities, which showed and increase in faith in climate science since January.

The polls mentioned above, as well as interpretations of other polls, show strong political support for many climate and environmental initiatives in both the UK and the US. Though there are obviously segments that vehemently oppose nearly any political action on the environment, they are clearly in the minority.

Read both the Guardian article and this New York Times op-ed piece for more on the story.

Additional resources:

Time Magazine – Leaving a Good Legacy