Archive for August, 2013

Claims of a global warming pause have had no impact on public opinion

Posted in Climate Sock on August 22nd, 2013 by Leo – 1 Comment

The claim that climate change has paused has had a great few months in terms of media coverage – but Carbon Brief’s new poll suggests this hasn’t had any impact on public opinion.

The climate change ‘pause’* – the suggestion that global warming has stopped over the last 16 years – has had plenty of attention recently. Andrew Neil’s interview last month with the Energy & Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey began, “can global warming be happening as expected if the world has stopped getting hotter?”; the Mail have been talking about it for months; and some respected climate scientists have joined the debate.

If there was an organised campaign to change the debate about global warming – so it’s seen as something that’s uncertain rather than already started – it would look to be doing well. But getting a lot of coverage is only a start. Squeaky bum time for any campaign comes when the funders ask to see what the impact of all the coverage has been.

This is where a ‘climate change has stopped’ campaign that was aiming to change the wider debate about climate change would struggle. Because, despite the attention it’s had, almost no-one can remember hearing it, and overall opinion about climate change essentially hasn’t moved over the last seven months, when coverage has been at its highest.

Carbon Brief asked respondents to say which news stories they could remember hearing, from a list of real and made-up stories. The most frequently recalled were the Green Deal, stories about scientists faking data (higher than I expected), and scientists meeting to talk about the UK’s recent unusual weather.

The story that climate change has stopped over the last 16 years was recalled by just one in 20 people: less than a quarter of the number who thought they recalled a made-up story about China announcing it won’t limit its emissions.

Another question on views about climate change also suggests that the debate hasn’t had a measurable impact on public opinion.

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Fracking has hardly any public support – but opponents have a tough choice

Posted in Climate Sock, Energy sources on August 20th, 2013 by Leo – 6 Comments

Carbon Brief’s new poll shows how little support there is for shale gas fracking in the UK. But while the poll suggests supporters of shale have problems to overcome, it also shows that anti-frackers have a real challenge ahead.

Shale gas wells have the lowest support out of any domestic source of energy. Fewer than one in five would support the building of a shale well within 10 miles of their home: that compares with more than half who support wind turbines.


But opposition to shale isn’t yet solid. There are still 40% who aren’t sure either way about local fracking, and fewer opponents than there are for both coal and nuclear. The argument can still swing either way.

And dig into the reasons for people’s opinions about shale, and it’s clear that both sides have problems.

Support for fracking is on shaky ground

The reasons why people support shale are strongly angled towards its being a crucial source of energy for the country.

This is a winning argument if the debate happens on a national level. Everyone knows we need some kind of energy source, so if people agree that shale can provide secure, low-cost domestic energy for the country, it’s hard to find a national-level argument that beats it*.

But this only works if fracking will happen in, say, desolate and sparsely populated places. It’s less effective if fracking happens where people live and you’re facing emotional** arguments.

The reasons for opposition to shale indeed show the challenge for its supporters.

Earthquakes and contaminated drinking water not only sound horrible for people living near wells – they’re also outrageous enough to mobilise outrage across the country. If the country believes that fracking causes so much local damage (regardless of whether it does), the benefits of energy security aren’t enough to win the argument.

Anti-frackers have to make a tough decision

But this is also a major problem for anti-frackers – who have a big decision to make.

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Wind has three times the local support of shale gas fracking

Posted in Climate Sock, Energy sources on August 19th, 2013 by Leo – Comments Off on Wind has three times the local support of shale gas fracking

Carbon Brief’s new climate change and energy poll is just out and has loads of interesting results again. The most striking is that three times as many people would support new wind turbines within 10 miles of their home than would support a shale gas well.

Local fracking has the lowest support of any energy source out of all those tested. This is despite the media opposition to wind farms and the political backing for shale gas fracking.

Support for local wind turbines outweighs opposition by a factor of at least 1.8 in every UK region. Even among Tory voters, support (45%) is greater than opposition (31%).

For shale, no region can muster more than 21% support*. Little more than one in four (27%) of Tory voters would support a shale well within 10 miles of their home.

Part of the low support for fracking is a lack of knowledge about it – so many people are still undecided, rather than opposed. But even with lower knowledge, more people would oppose local shale gas wells than would oppose wind turbines, gas power stations or even coal mines.

A longer piece on campaigns and communications about fracking will be up here shortly.


* Ironically, the greatest support is in the North East – but still only 21%, against 33% opposition.