Sunday 20th April 2014                 Change text size:

72% of Britons say living standards more important than climate change



climate change sign by ItzaFineDay via flickr

Whilst two-thirds of the British population intellectually accepts the reality of manmade climate change, many deny some or all of the associated feelings and responsibilities needed to deal with the issue, according to a new report.

A YouGov poll commissioned for the study found that only 37% of respondents agree their actions are part of the climate change problem. This denial makes it very difficult to create the political will necessary to decarbonise the economy at the scale and speed required, it said.

Additionally, almost two thirds (61%) of participants said economic growth should be a priority even if it has a negative impact on the climate and 72% said their own standard of living was more important than climate change.

The responses suggest that the public is detached from the effects of climate change and don’t realise it poses a threat to public health, national security and the global financial system. This could be linked to that fact that only 60% of respondents had ever talked about climate change, with 71% of these speaking about it for less than ten minutes.

The report, A New Agenda on Climate Change, written by the RSA’s Social Brain Centre, calls for the climate change debate to be reframed and demands that politicians and businesses take leadership on the issue.

Dr Jonathan Rowson, author of the report and director of the RSA Social Brain Centre, commented, “The human response to climate change in unfolding as a political tragedy because scientific knowledge and economic power are pointing in different directions.

“There is a moral imperative to act, and the main barriers are not those who question the scientific consensus, but those who ‘get it’ but don’t give their politicians the mandate they need to act with strategic conviction.”

The report argues that the solution not only needs governments to connect with the public but that citizens need to challenge governments more in order to make changes to the energy supply of the country. Public action is hindered by six reasons, according to the study, including the belief that climate change doesn’t really matter in the UK and that actions will have no impact

Rowson added, “It’s not about being ‘green’, it’s about being more honest and strategic about the causes and impacts of the problem.”

The report concluded that a mixture of vested interests, political paralysis and civic ambiguity has caused the lack of progress on climate change.

Further reading:

Sir David Attenborough: mankind is changing the planet fundamentally

Renewable energy second most popular investment for British public

Majority of investors unaware of ‘foolhardy addiction’ to climate risks

Aberdeen academics urge rapid action on climate change

‘Dithering’ on green economy could cost UK billions, warns TUC


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