Changes in climate change perceptions

Two interesting studies have recently been released showing US and UK public perceptions of climate change after the recent “climategate” email leaks from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and controversies over mistakes in the 4th IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report.

In the US, the Woods Institute for the Environment have carried out their 5th annual survey.   74% of respondents in a 100o person telephone survey responded yes to the question “Has the Earth’s temperature probably had been heating up over the last 100 years?”.   The figure is down slightly from last year, when it was 75%, and has declined each year from the first survey in 2006 when it stood at 85%.  The analysis showed that the recent fall was due to those who are sceptical of climate change scientists reacting to cold weather in the last two years.

Note how this figure of 74% compares with the 63% figure found by Gallup for US citizens who are aware of climate change and believe it to be due to manmade changes (see our previous blog post).   It seems to suggest a large majority of Americans who think the earth is warming believe that it is humans who are causing it, with the majority of sceptics not believing in global warming at all.

The Woods Institute survey, led by Josh Krosnick, also showed that despite the recent controversies, trust in climate scientists had actually risen slightly over the last year.

The newly published Ipsos Mori poll carried out with Cardiff University paints a similar picture of belief in the UK.  In 2005, 91% of those surveyed thought that climate change was happening and this has now reduced to 78%.  With 58% replying that they had noticed changes for themselves, it shows the power of personal experience and that we are reaching a stage where a majority have some relevant experience to back up any studies by experts.   However, 40% of respondents thought that the seriousness of climate change is exaggerated.

Overall, the studies show a smaller fall in belief in climate change than might be expected after the recent high profile controversies over the accuracy and independence of published results and also after recent cold weather that has caused headlines to change from “global warming” to “climate change”.