Archive for July, 2011

Is keeping the lights on more important than stopping climate change?

Posted in Climate Sock, Energy sources on July 24th, 2011 by leo – 1 Comment

How far people are willing to take personal action to prevent climate change is one of the big policy questions. When considering a major global issue like climate change, many people will consider that they cannot have an impact, and that they should leave it to the government, if indeed they think it’s worth tackling at all.

A new poll by ComRes tackles this question. Having been commissioned by Centrica, its focus is on domestic energy usage, and it suggests a tension between what people are doing now and what they might be willing to do in the future.

According to the poll, three quarters of UK adults have recently tried to reduce the amount of gas and electricity they use. The reasons given for these reductions are interesting:


That price should be top isn’t surprising, but I’m struck that nearly twice as many say they reduced their energy use to help the environment as say they did so to protect the UK’s energy supply.

This surprised me a little because polling I’ve seen in the past has shown that, as reasons for energy conservation, energy security is generally more compelling than climate change.

And we do in fact see something similar in a later question in this poll.

When we move away from what people are doing, and onto what they want the government to do, we get a different picture:

read more »

Have Australians stopped caring about climate change?

Posted in Climate Sock on July 9th, 2011 by leo – Comments Off on Have Australians stopped caring about climate change?

The latest annual poll by the Australian thinktank, the Lowy Institute, suggests a dramatic fall in concern about climate change. It’s usually a good rule that the more interesting a poll, is the less likely it is to be a good representation of public opinion, and the new Lowry poll has indeed been challenged.

But while some of the criticisms of the poll seem fair, I suggest that dismissing it would be a mistake.

At the heart of the debate is data that appear to suggest that Australians’ concern about climate change has plummeted in recent years. The same question has been used in the annual polls for several years, allowing a comparison of attitudes over time.

The resulting chart is this:

Which immediately suggests a dramatic fall in concern about climate change: from nearly 7 in 10 wanting action even at significant cost in 2006, to only 4 in 10 saying the same now.

The main challenge to the data has been on the basis of the structure of the question. Joseph Reser at Griffith University, has argued both that the length of the questions is a problem, and that the answer choices “contain multiple and emotional button-pressing matters and language”.

The result, he argues, is that the poll fails to measure the public’s understanding or perceptions of risk in an issue as complex as climate change. Significantly, it also appears to show a lower level of concern than is identified in other polls that individually examine different aspects of attitudes to the issue.

All of this seems fair. The question wording is indeed long, and it does contain some emotive language. But I don’t think that makes the result any less interesting or important.

read more »