Are cracks appearing in the public acceptance of the climate threat?
By James Dacey
As the scientific community has moved towards a stronger consensus that man made climate change is happening, the general public must have become less sceptical about the issue – right??
Well, wrong in the case of the British public, according to social scientist Lorraine Whitmarsh, who carried out separate opinion surveys in 2003 and 2008.
Over this five year period, the number of respondents who believe that claims about the effects of climate change have been exaggerated has risen from 15 to 29 per cent.
What’s more, over half of respondents in the latest survey feel that the media have been too “alarmist” in their reporting of the issue.
Sceptics are more likely to be men, older people, rural dwellers and – perhaps surprisingly – higher earners.
Speaking at the British Science festival in Guildford, Whitmarsh also referred to a recent poll by Euro barometer to say that Brits are more sceptical than most other Europeans on the issue.
When asked if she could explain the rising scepticism, Whitmarsh replied that it could be something to do with the way science is taught in British schools.
“Perhaps the way we teach science should reflect the inevitable uncertainty of
the scientific process,” she said.