Archive for March, 2011

Nuclear power after the earthquake

Posted in Climate Sock, Energy sources on March 24th, 2011 by leo – Comments Off on Nuclear power after the earthquake

As expected, we’ve started seeing a flurry of polls on attitudes to nuclear power, post-earthquake. For now I’m going to focus on the UK polls, though there look to be a lot of non-UK polls too, and I’ll try to cover those soon.

Two have come out in the last few days: a YouGov/Sunday Times poll, which included a few questions on nuclear among other issues; and a poll commissioned by Friends of the Earth, and conducted by GfK NOP.  On the latter, just because it’s commissioned by a group who’re campaigning on the issue, doesn’t mean there’s anything dodgy about it. They’ve been good enough to release the data, and there doesn’t strike me as anything leading or suspicious about it, particularly the first question (which is the only one I’m using here).

Two things stand out from the polls:

1. Support for nuclear energy has fallen, but not dramatically

No surprises that support for nuclear energy has fallen.  I was a little surprised, though, by the relatively small size of the drop in support for building nuclear plants to replace those that are being phased out.

Before the earthquake, Mori in November last year found 47% support / 19% opposition.  Now, we see 35% support / 28% opposition in the GfK NOP poll (the YouGov poll had no equivalent question).

Putting this in context of the last few years, it only takes support for nuclear energy down to the level it was at in late ‘07. And while it’s fallen significantly since late last year, there’s still a majority in favour of replacement.

 

2. Men and women have very different attitudes

It’s not often that you see an issue so divided on gender lines as these polls show attitudes to nuclear power to be.

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Nuclear power before the earthquake: international polls

Posted in Climate Sock, Energy sources on March 13th, 2011 by leo – 2 Comments

Caring about international public views on nuclear power shouldn’t be at the top of many people’s to-do list right now. For one, donating to the Red Cross should be a lot of places higher (and that’s also, sort of, what I’m going to write about).

But pretty soon now, once the stories from Japan of individual tragedy and wonderful survival have been played out, much of the media will turn to the question of whether nuclear power is safe. And a part of that reporting will be, whether people think that nuclear power is safe.

We can safely assume that public enthusiasm for nuclear energy, around the world, is right now taking a battering (as I write, there hasn’t been a nuclear disaster). We can also expect that a lot will be written about public attitudes to nuclear power. What I want to do here is collect some of the international data from polls conducted before the earthquake.

In summary from those polls: over the last decade (and possibly longer), overt opposition to nuclear power has fallen significantly.  Now (that is, from polls taken before the earthquake), a majority would support the introduction, or continued use, of nuclear power as one of the ways of generating electricity.

UK

I’ve written a couple of times before about attitudes towards nuclear power in the UK, most recently here.

Overall, there has been a relatively consistent fall in opposition to the continued use of nuclear energy to replace existing supply:

That said, other UK polls have shown that though nuclear power may not be so widely opposed as it had been before, it’s seen much less favourably than other forms of power generation. Nuclear only noses ahead of gas and coal when it’s put in the context of global warming and climate change. Read more on that here.

US

Polls from Gallup show that overall attitudes in the US have followed a similar trend. As in the UK, those supporting the use of some nuclear power overtook those opposing it around ten years ago. Since then, the lead has continued to widen:

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Have we turned a corner?

Posted in Climate Sock on March 2nd, 2011 by leo – 3 Comments

It’s not so long since I argued that the economy was bringing down concern about the environment (and, err, that article hasn’t exactly been buried in a recent deluge of posts). The data indicated that, across a range of countries, people were becoming less worried about climate change (and other environmental issues) at around the same time that national GDPs were falling.

This suggested an explanation for the recent fall in concern about climate change, which was different from those explanations we’ve seen before (like challenges to climate science, or recent cold winters). Intuitively this explanations seems more convincing since it doesn’t assume that people spend much time pontificating about climate change, as the other explanations do. In fact, it essentially assumes the opposite, which is probably reasonable.

But the last two climate polls I’ve seen suggest that maybe things have started to change. We’ve already seen that the Guardian’s recent ICM poll found that 83% think that climate change is a threat now or will be in the future – crucially, that’s the same as they found in August ’09. This marked a change from other recent polls, which all seemed to point to some fall in concern about climate change that occurred after August ’09.

Perhaps opinion had indeed started to shift. Or alternatively that poll could have been an outlier. Without another poll to back it up, it was hard to tell (this is of course the problem for media outlets when they’re reporting their own expensively bought poll: any single poll can be an outlier, and indeed the more exciting and headline-friendly a poll is, the more likely it is to be an outlier. Sites like 538 and UK Polling Report, which report polls from across the firms, are a good way of sense-checking any individual poll).

My hesitancy about the poll still stands, but another one lends a little straw in the wind. A new Economist/YouGov poll in the US has found a fairly similar result – that over the last year, agreement that global warming is happening has remained consistent:

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