Menu
 

You are on the Natcen site

Click here for Scotcen

natcen map

You are on the Natcen site

Click here for Scotcen

natcen map

Brits know climate change is happening but aren’t very concerned about it

10 July 2018 | Tags: BSA, British Social Attitudes, Climate change, Environment, Global warming

Most Brits believe that climate change is happening, but few are very worried about it and only a minority feel very responsible to reduce it, according to the latest British Social Attitudes report.

 

  • Minority thinks climate change is mainly or entirely due to human activity but vast majority believes that climate change is at least in part caused by human activity
  • Young people most worried about climate change but least likely to save energy
  • Most feel moderate level of personal responsibility and lack of optimism about reducing climate change

Most Brits believe that climate change is happening, but few are very worried about it and only a minority feel very responsible to reduce it, according to the latest British Social Attitudes report.

The findings, from the European Social Survey (ESS),  show that 93% of people acknowledge that the world’s climate is at least probably changing. Only 39% say they have given climate change ‘a great deal’ or ‘a lot’ of thought. 21% say they have given it very little thought or no thought at all.

Younger and more educated people are more convinced that climate change exists, however even among graduates and 18 to 34 year olds, only two-thirds (68% and 66%)respectively) are definite that climate change is happening. In contrast, only half (50%) of over 65s and those educated to GCSE level or below think that the world’s climate is definitely changing.

A generational divide in attitudes is also reflected in the fact that younger age groups are more likely to be worried about climate change, with 31% of those aged 18 to 34 reporting that they are ‘extremely worried’ or ‘very worried’ compared to 24% of those aged 35 to 64 and 19% of those aged 65 and over.

Equally, graduates express a greater concern about climate change, with 35% saying they are either ‘extremely worried’ or ‘very worried’, compared to 20% of those with GCSE or lower qualifications.

36% of respondents say that climate change is mainly or entirely caused by human activity. A majority of people (53%) blame human activity and natural causes equally for climate change, with a vast majority (95%) thinking that climate change is at least in part caused by human activity.

This is almost on par with the amount of people who believe that climate change is at least partly due to natural processes (93%). Only 2% claim that climate change is definitely not happening. 

Younger people (46%) are more likely than those over the age of 65 (27%) to think climate change is entirely or mainly due to human activity. 48% of graduates also hold this view compared to just 27% of those educated to GCSE level or below.

Looking at personal responsibility to reduce climate change on a scale of 0-10[1], the overall average score given by respondents is 6.0. Less than 10% give a score of 2 or less and 15% a score of 9 or 10, while the largest segment of people chose an intermediate score, suggesting a moderate personal responsibility to reduce climate change.

When asked how likely it is that limiting one’s own energy use would help reduce climate change, the average score is 4.4[2], illustrating a low degree of confidence in personal efficacy. The youngest age group, rather than doing the most, are the least likely to often (or very often or always) do things to save energy (71% of those aged 18 to 34 vs 77% of those aged 35 to 64 vs 75% of over 65s).

Respondents think that lots of people limiting their energy use will have a stronger effect on climate change reduction than just one person, giving an average score of 5.8[3] for collective ability compared with 4.4 on the same 0-10 scale for personal ability. Nevertheless it is worth noting that the gap between personal ability and collective ability to reduce climate change is not significantly wider.

Furthermore, people are rather pessimistic about the likelihood that many people will actually reduce their energy use, giving this possibility an average score of 3.8[4]. Equally, they have little hope that governments in enough countries will take action as indicated by an average score of 4.3 on the same scale.

The findings show significant differences in attitudes towards climate change by party identification;  Liberal Democrats (35%) and Labour (29%) supporters display moderate levels of concern, Conservatives (18%) and UKIP supporters (13%) are  less worried. Although the base is small and so should be treated with caution[5], Green Party supporters are the most concerned (52%).

In addition, climate change worries differ among those who voted leave (17%) and those who voted remain (32%) in the Brexit referendum. This reflects a more fundamental divide over the existence of climate change. 71% of Remain voters think that climate change is definitely happening, in stark contrast to 53% of Leave voters.

Read the full British Social Attitudes chapter on climate change here.



[1] where 0 represents no responsibility and 10 means ‘a great deal responsibility

[2] on a scale from 0 meaning ‘not at all likely’ to 10 meaning ‘extremely likely’

[3] on a scale from 0 meaning ‘not at all likely’ to 10 meaning ‘extremely likely

[4] on a scale from 0 meaning ‘not at all likely’ to 10 ‘extremely likely

[5] Green Party base: 53