Perceptions of climate change

6th April 2017

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Most people accept that climate change is happening, but far fewer believe there is scientific consensus.

Researchers led by academics at Cardiff University asked Ipsos MORI to explore public perceptions of climate change in France, Germany, Norway and the UK. More than 80% of the 4,048 polled believed the world’s climate was changing. Some 60% said they were already feeling the effects, with opinion strongest in Norway, at 93%. Figures for France, Germany and the UK were 92%, 83% and 86% respectively.

Although the majority (83%–91%) in the four countries thought climate change was at least partly caused by human activity, just 24% to 35% believed there was strong scientific consensus on the issue. Germany (16%) and the UK (14%) had the highest number of people sceptical about human activity causing climate change or who do not believe it is occurring.

In Germany, just 24% of respondents thought most scientists agreed on anthropogenic climate change. The belief in strong scientific agreement was slightly higher in Norway, France and the UK, at between 30% and 35%.

Between 18% and 20% of those polled thought there was an even divide in the scientific community, although more than half in all four countries believed that more than 50% of scientists agreed that climate change was happening and humans were largely causing it (between 54% and 64%).

The study also found that climate change was not a pressing issue in any country. It was mentioned by only 2% of respondents in the UK (13th in the list of most pressing concerns); 3% in Germany (tenth); 6% in France (fifth); and 10% In Norway (fourth). In France, unemployment dominated the responses (cited by 36% of respondents as the number one issue), while the refugee crisis (14%) and immigration (13%) were the most frequent responses in Germany, and immigration the most commonly expressed concern in the UK (26%).

People in France were most worried about climate change, with 41% indicating they were very or extremely worried, and least anxious about it in the UK, with just 20% expressing unease. In Germany and Norway, the proportion very or extremely worried was 30% and 29% respectively.


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