Archive for May, 2010

Before we get carried away…

Posted in Climate Sock, Media on May 30th, 2010 by leo – 3 Comments

After a pause in hostilities for the election, it looks like the favourite climate story of the year has resurfaced.  A new poll is out and being covered with the headline that fewer people now believe in climate change or think that it’s an urgent issue demanding attention.

There’s some truth in the basic argument that people are now less convinced and worried about climate change than they have been in the past. But when the Guardian runs a story like this, it gets widely noticed and repeated, and there are several reasons why we shouldn’t get too carried away by the news.

1. This is the same story we have already heard several times

In February, there was quite a bit of print, broadcast and online coverage for a BBC poll that showed a fall in public belief in climate change. According to the BBC’s numbers, the proportion saying that “climate change is happening and is now established as largely man-made” fell from 41% in November ’09 to 26% in February ’10.

A couple of weeks later, the Guardian reported a different poll by the ad agency Euro RSCG. This one showed that the proportion that thinks that climate change “is definitely a reality” dropped from 44% to 31% between January ’09 and January ’10. In fact, the Guardian enjoyed the poll so much, they reported it a second time, two weeks later.

So when we hear about yet another poll that shows a drop in belief or concern about climate change between last year and this year, we’re probably not seeing anything new. A check of the numbers in the YouGov poll confirms this.

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EDF Energy’s nifty press work

Posted in Climate Sock, Media on May 25th, 2010 by leo – Comments Off on EDF Energy’s nifty press work

Just had a chance to look through the data for the new YouGov poll for EDF Energy, which the Guardian wrote up yesterday.

First thoughts on reading the Guardian coverage was that it looked like a quick copy-and-paste job from a press release.

There’s some pretty selective quoting of statistics to make the case for nuclear energy:

– The baseline year for comparison jumps between 2006, 2007 and 2009 – depending on when the strongest comparison can be made;

– There’s a bizarre reference to a fall from 82% to 80% – well within the margin of error;

– Nothing is quoted that challenges EDF’s pro-nuclear narrative (e.g. that net favourability for windfarms is +61, compared with only +16 for nuclear);

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The challenges ahead for climate policy

Posted in Climate Sock, Media, Politics on May 23rd, 2010 by leo – 4 Comments

However we measure it, climate change has become a less prominent issue in the UK lately. With a new government that looks unexpectedly stable, climate campaigners can no longer count on another election coming along soon to shake things up.  Instead, they need to find ways of working with the current media and political set-up.

There are significant risks in not addressing the way climate change is currently talked about and acted on. While the coalition document suggests the new government has made a fairly good start to climate policy, this may not be sustainable if people don’t start talking and acting differently about climate change.

While climate change has never been the most prominent issue in the UK, lately it’s fallen further from the media’s attention and from most people’s consciousness. Google Trends confirms that both in terms of searches and news coverage, climate change has now dropped to well below the peaks we’ve seen since 2006.

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What next for the Greens?

Posted in Climate Sock, Politics on May 7th, 2010 by leo – 1 Comment

The big news for the Green Party is Caroline Lucas’ victory in Brighton Pavilion. Winning a Westminster seat for the first time is an eye-catching breakthrough that brings direct benefits in funding and publicity.

But away from Brighton, the Greens’ scores weren’t spectacular; the significance of yesterday may be less the results themselves, and more the opportunity they’ve given the party to build on its current position.

Nationally, the Greens won 286k votes: up about 30k on 2005. But in 2005 they contested 200 seats; this time they were in 334 constituencies, and there was an overall small national swing away from the Greens. Overall, UKIP got 3 times as many votes, and the BNP got twice as many.

Away from Brighton Pavilion, their results in the constituencies they targeted were mixed. In Norwich South they gained 7.5pts, and in Cambridge Tony Juniper gained 4.7pts, but in both they remained in fourth place.  In both Lewisham Deptford and Oxford East, they lost ground, falling by 3.3pts and 2.1pts respectively.

So even where the party is making gains it’s still a very long way from being able to win more constituencies. Only in Norwich South are they in touching distance of the winning party – and Labour and the Lib Dems will be fighting tooth and nail over it.

There’s an argument that this election came at a difficult time for an environmentalist party: the focus on the economy squeezed out most coverage of green issues. But other factors may have helped, since the Tories and Labour were so unpopular, and the Lib Dems look to have been less popular than the polls had suggested.

All this suggests that the extra money, airtime and credibility that Caroline Lucas MP will bring is unlikely to be enough alone to help the party make further gains in Westminster.  The only answer for the Greens looks to be electoral reform.

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Climate change in the UK election

Posted in Climate Sock, Politics on May 3rd, 2010 by leo – 1 Comment

Last week we had a look at how the Greens are doing in their campaign to win their first seat in the UK parliament. But as well as those actively fighting for seats, there are also some interesting non-partisan campaigns going on over the election. With the election now only a couple of days away, they’ve pretty much run their course in their current format – but worth looking at as a sign of how some groups are working to increase the political salience of climate change.

One of the most large-scale campaigns has been Ask the Climate Question, organised by nine environmental and development charities and not-for-profits, including Greenpeace, WWF and Oxfam. Their approach has focused on gathering information and raising the profile of climate change: organising hustings and using other routes to ask candidates throughout the country about their policies on climate change.

Just going by coverage and levels of participation, it’s done very well. It’s been carried by most of the mainstream media – albeit generally in the context of the Guardian’s climate change debate – including some of those that typically only like to mention climate change as something that people don’t believe in. It looks like they’ve been getting at least 150 (sometimes twice that) at their events, and have been holding them across the country.  They’ve also been able to get the party leaders to submit videos in which they each personally explain what their parties will do to tackle climate change.

What I think it lacks is an element of punch. It’s a profile-raising campaign, rather than an action-focused one. In contrast, the Spartans campaign (motto: “It’s the climate, stupid”) is focused entirely on political action. The idea behind the campaign (which I’m helping coordinate in one constituency) is to bring together groups of voters in marginal constituencies who will pledge to support whichever credible candidate has the best policies on climate change.

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