What does the public think about climate change?

What does the public think about climate change?

The BEIS Public Attitudes Tracker is a good indicator of changes in public attitudes towards topical issues. The study runs four times a year and collects data through interviews. We have summarised the most recent results published by BEIS in May 2019, focusing on topics surrounding energy and climate change.

A striking result was seen in an increase of concern over climate change among the Brisith public. With the recent media attention on the ‘School Strikes for Climate’, the release of David Attenborough’s popular TV show ‘Our Planet’ and the growing reputaition of Extinction Rebellion over the last few months, climate change been catapulted back into the spotlight. The increased attention to climate change by the public eye could arguably be one of the factors at play in the increase of concern for our climate. The survey found that the overall proportion concerned about climate change in March 2019 was the highest since the survey started in 2012.

Support for renewables

We are particularly pleased to see that renewables are also seeing a significant rise in popularity. Support has gone up from 82% of the public supporting renewables in August 2018, to 84% in March 2019. The figure also shows that opposition to renewable energy remains extremely low. In the weeks after the UK generated electricity without the use of coal for over two weeks, this figure shows that the public’s support for renewable energy is increasing in parallel to the integration of renewables into our energy mix.

Signs of climate change

The next figure investigated the public’s opinion on whether climate change is already having an impact on the UK. A staggering 69% said they believed climate change was indeed already having an effect on the country. Over half of those believed higher temperatures and hotter summers are the most common impact of of cliamte change seen here. The survey also found that 31% believed rising sea levels and more flooding is the most common impact, and 54% thought the current impacts were an increase in extreme events such as storms. A further 11% said they believed it was not yet having an impact, but will do in their lifetimes. 

Individual behaviours 

All apart from the 2% who did not believe in climate change were asked which three behaviours they expected to have the biggest impact on tackling climate change in the UK, if everyone in the UK did these things. The most popular behviours people felt could reduce climate change were as follows: 

  • Avoid/minimise food waste (57%)
  • Minimise amount of energy used at home (56%)
  • Choose to walk, cycle or use public transport instead of car (56%)
  • Think about the energy efficiency of products when making a purchase
  • Avoid less meat (15%)
  • Avoid/minimise air travel (14%)

Interestingly, despite recent media coverage of “Flygskam”, or flight shame the swedish guillt over flying, this apears to have not spread to British public attitudes as minimising air travel was only soemthing chosen by 14%. 


Some good news is that the numbers of people saying they have switched has risen compared to last year. However the number of switchers still remains relatively low. Only 20% of the public said they had switched within the last year. The amount that households can save by switching is £200 on average, and YouGen reccomends you to shop around for new energy tariffs once a year.

Although this survey is carried out with a relatively small sample from the British public, it gives an interesting indicator of atittitudes towards some of the most important and current topics affecting the country. A hopeful finding to end on is that 86% of people surveyed believe that if everyone does their bit, we can successfully reduce the effects of climate change together. Let’s hope that everybody is willing to act on theis belief. 

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