Archive for June, 2010

Blog Nation presentation

Posted in Climate Sock, Communications on June 27th, 2010 by leo – 1 Comment

I was at the excellent Blog Nation conference in London this weekend, organised by Liberal Conspiracy. While I think it’s hugely important that tackling climate change shouldn’t be seen as a party political, or a left/right issue, the conference was a good opportunity for leftish bloggers and campaigners to talk about plans for the next few months and years.

Sunny at Liberal Conspiracy was kind enough to give me a platform to garble at the conferees for a few minutes, and here’s the short presentation I put together:

Blog Nation presentation

The gist of my argument (going with the slides above) was:

There are two major issues in public perceptions of climate change in the UK at the moment. The first is to do with understanding and enthusiasm/engagement. While climategate etc has only had a fairly limited impact on perceptions, and while only very few are convinced that man-made climate change isn’t happening, as many as two-thirds are unconvinced that climate change is a big issue. This is a substantial proportion, suggesting a widespread lack of enthusiasm among the public about the issue.

The second challenge is to do with who the public are hearing about climate change from. At least in the UK, politicians are the group who are most visible talking about climate change, but they’re also the most distrusted. So even where people are generally quite willing to take action, or make lifestyle changes, to deal with climate change, they’re very suspicious when they hear politicians saying that they should do so.

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This week’s polls

Posted in Climate Sock, Climategate, Energy sources on June 20th, 2010 by leo – Comments Off on This week’s polls

Busily working on a presentation this weekend (which will be up here soon), so just a couple of links to some interesting new polls:

The Understanding Risk group have recently released their data for a UK national poll focused on climate change and energy sources. It’s got loads to look at, and the results can be interpreted in various ways, particularly with the comparison with a 2005 data .  One way of looking at it is  that there’s no evidence that people have become any more worried about climate change since 2005 (and arguably have become less concerned).  But most people are still pretty worried, and levels of outright rejection are still very low.

A poll from Stanford shows that in the US about a third now remember hearing stories about climate scientists’ emails, and about a quarter remember stories about the IPCC’s reports. The unspecified climate scientists come out slightly better than the IPCC – perhaps reflecting US feelings about international institutions. (Thanks Bob Ward for pointing this one out)

Another US poll, this one from Yale/George Mason, indicates that scientists are the most trusted source of information about global warming – and that trust has recovered after a small drop in January (though not much beyond margin of error). Another part of this poll is accessible here.

And finally… a very PR-friendly poll from Greenpeace. Apparently nearly three quarters in Suffolk want more investment in clean energy like wind power.

Making the case for tackling climate change

Posted in Climate Sock, Climategate, Communications, Media on June 13th, 2010 by leo – 4 Comments

There’s an excellent article in a recent New Scientist, which makes a powerful case for rethinking the way climate change is communicated. While the article, by Bob Ward, is controversial, and may jar with a lot of climate scientists and communicators, much of what we’ve seen here in the public opinion data bear him out, and his conclusions seem sound.

The article starts with the assertion that climate scientists’ reputation has been damaged by the challenges to the analyses of the IPCC and UEA’s research teams. This is plausible, though I’m reluctant to accept the direct comparison made with the damage suffered by the Roman Catholic Church and the UK Parliament over the last couple of years.

It’s true there’s been some decline in conviction in the UK that man-made climate change is happening, but I’m yet to see evidence that this was a direct consequence of the stories about the IPCC and UEA. The polls around the time of the coverage of the UEA email hack suggested little change in public opinion; it wasn’t until the freezing winter that the numbers really moved (though: post hoc ergo propter hoc – this doesn’t prove that the cold weather caused the shift). It may indeed be the case that scientists have become less trusted as communicators about climate change, but as far as I’m aware this hypothesis hasn’t yet been proved.

Nevertheless, Ward’s broader argument still stands. Even if lack of trust in climate scientists is not necessarily itself a major issue, there clearly is a problem. Public interest, belief, and commitment to tackling climate change appear to be fairly malleable, and are affected substantially by short-term factors like the weather – rather than by developments in the science. The activities of critics of climate research are also effectively keeping alive the question of whether or not man-made climate change is happening, to a greater extent than may be justified. On top of this, politicians appear to be the main group who are heard talking about talking climate change, yet they’re also the group who are least trusted to do so.

As Ward argues, climate science is making a mistake in “hunkering down and hoping for the best”. Instead, it should learn from how other organisations have recovered from similar challenges. Quoting from a PR strategist at Weber Shandwick, he suggests a course of action that’s quite different from the approaches that appear to have been taken recently:

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The spill doesn’t change everything

Posted in Climate Sock, Energy sources on June 6th, 2010 by leo – 1 Comment

It may be natural to assume that one of the things that will come out of the Gulf oil spill is a swing in US opinion, away from oil exploration, and towards less polluting sources. But the polls are surprisingly undramatic on the subject. Overall, there appears be less growth than might be expected in US public opposition to offshore drilling

In terms of the current level of support for offshore drilling the US, two different polls conducted in May (i.e. after the spill) show satisfyingly similar numbers. According to Angus Reid, 57% support “drilling for oil and gas in the coastal areas around the United States”. A poll by Public Policy Polling, found 55% support “drilling for oil off the American coastline”. A further 10% and 15% are undecided in the respective polls.

Whether this shows any change in attitudes from before the spill is less clear. I’m yet to find a national US poll that asked a comparable question (i.e. support for any offshore drilling) before April. A Gallup poll in May ’08 showed 57% supporting an expansion of drilling into US coastal and wilderness areas that were then off-limits.  We might conclude that if 57% wanted an expansion of drilling two years ago, and now the same proportion would support any drilling, support must have fallen at least a little.

Unexpectedly, the best answer for confirming this appears to come from Fox News. As luck would have it, they polled on offshore drilling two weeks before the crisis started, and have repeated the same question twice since then: “Do you favor or oppose increasing offshore drilling for oil and gas in U.S. coastal areas?”. The results are clear – a drop, but not a haemorrhage, in support for drilling:

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