A government-commissioned opinion poll has found the UK public’s worries about climate change remain high, but have been falling for the past four years. That decline accelerated following the so-called climategate scandal of autumn 2009.
In August 2006, 87% of a sample of more than 1,000 adults were “at least fairly convinced that climate change is happening". By August 2009 that proportion had fallen to 83%, then in the following year it dropped to 75%. The figures were published in January by the Department for Transport (DfT).
When asked if they were “at least fairly concerned about climate change”, 81% said they were in 2006. That fell to 76% in 2009, then fell more rapidly to 70% in August 2010.
The proportion who say they are willing to change behaviour to help limit climate change has also fallen – but more gradually, and without much acceleration from 2009 to 2010. In 2006 it was 77%, falling to 72% in 2010.
One possible contributor to the falling levels of concern was the extensive media coverage of alleged climate science misconduct, following the release of emails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit in late 2009 (ENDS Report, July 2010). The allegations have not altered the scientific consensus on climate change and humanity's contribution to it, but the public may have been influenced.
Cold winters in the UK in 2008/09 and 2009/10 could also have contributed to the shift in public attitudes found by the DfT-commissioned survey.