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The environment surges in importance among British public amid flooding crisis



New figures have revealed that the number of people in Britain who identify the environment as the most pressing issue for the country has gone up by 14 percentage points in the space of a month.

In January, only 9% of people interviewed believed that the environment was the most important issue for Britain. That figure is now 23%, according to a poll by YouGov.

The number has also risen significantly since December, when only 6% said it was important. The extreme weather that has hit the UK over the past few weeks is likely to have led to the increase.

Thirteen per cent of respondents identified environmental issues as a risk to their family – up from 6% in December. The figures are the highest since 2010.

Health, immigration, economy and welfare remain the top concerns for British people. However, the environment has gained most traction and was the only issue to experience a monthly increase of more than 10 percentage points.

Heavy rainfall and strong winds have recently battered England and Wales, causing floods, extreme damage to properties and travel disruption.

The Met Office has linked the “exceptional” weather to climate change, saying the likelihood of rainfall would increase in a warmer world. It added, however, that there was “no definitive answer” on the connection.

More females (27%) than males (19%) said the environment was at the top of their agenda, while the south (31%) – excluding London – displayed the highest figure in regional terms.

Meanwhile, broken down by voting intention, 37% of Lib Dems said the environment was the most important issue facing Britain – second only to the economy. Around a fifth of potential Conservative (22%), Labour (21%) and UKIP (20%) voters said the same.

Climate sceptic Tories who question the scientific evidence of climate change were criticised by the energy secretary  Ed Davey this week.

In a speech on Thursday, he said, “This type of climate change denying conservatism is wilfully ignorant, head-in-the-sand, nimbyist conservatism.”

Further reading:

Cameron links extreme weather to climate change as Met Office issues more flood warnings

UK weather will ‘change rapidly’ because of climate change, experts say

Met Office: evidence says ‘exceptional’ UK weather is linked to climate change

Green spaces in cities could restore species lost to urbanisation

Government poll: 77% of Britons support renewable energy