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.