A new public survey by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers has found that the majority of the UK public (67%) is unaware that UN climate change talks are taking place in Paris this month. Once all survey participants were made aware of the UN summit, there was also pessimism about the potential for a climate deal to be reached ― with just 19% saying they were confident a deal will be agreed, compared with 64% who said they were not confident it could be reached.
According to the poll, the public views the two biggest barriers to reaching a solution to climate change as the increased industrialisation of poorer countries (20%) and lack of political will (19%). Lack of public concern about climate change also scored highly with 11% and international conflicts were cited by 10% as being the biggest barrier.
The survey found that 47% of the public think developed countries, such as the UK, should face more challenging targets to cut emissions than poorer countries, compared to 25% who said we should not. However 36% said the UK should not fund the construction of low carbon infrastructure in poorer nations compared with 30% who said we should.
Dr Jenifer Baxter, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “These results from a survey just ahead of the Paris talks are troubling and the low levels of awareness illustrate how disengaged the public is with political attempts to combat climate change.
“Climate change is one of the biggest threats to humankind and is already causing droughts, flooding, political tensions and deaths around the world. These changes to the global environment could lead to mass migration leaving developed nations living in temperate zones, like the UK, to find ways to manage the health, social and basic needs of an ever increasing population.
“Leaders must show ambition to provide the political framework to make tackling climate change a priority. It is only with this clear vision that engineers and scientists can truly push through with the research, development and deployment of technologies that can mitigate climate change and allow us to adapt to a world that is already facing huge changes.
“It is imperative that the UK provides global leadership setting policies that will move us to a cleaner future. These policies will span from financial incentives and education, to research and development, to energy and environment policy and regulation. It is only a combined systems approach to managing these issues that will result in greater awareness and the development of low carbon, low pollution infrastructure.
“We can successfully mitigate and adapt to our changing climate. We have many existing and emerging technologies that could be implemented. However, without clear political and financial commitment to implement these technologies and make real change in our current polluting behaviours, the future management of utilities, housing, public services, employment and health of the UK citizens will become increasingly challenging.”
The United Nations is holding a climate change conference in Paris on 30 November to 11 December. The conference objective being to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world
The survey of 2,067 people was commissioned by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and completed by ICM Unlimited on 26-27 November 2015.
To download the full results click here.