Public remains concerned about climate effects in the UK but oppose emissions taxes

IMechE survey suggests climate change is still a major concern for the UK public

A survey released today suggests that concerns about climate change are still in the public’s mind, although it might be perceived as falling down the political agenda with continuing concerns over issues like the economy and immigration. According to the IMechE’s survey of 2000 members of the public, 57 per cent said they were concerned about global warming, with 14 per cent saying they were “very concerned”.

The survey said that 64 per cent of the public thought climate change was a concern now, while 70 per cent thought it would be even more of a worry in 20 years; time. Flooding and sea level rises, extreme weather events, and droughts and water shortages were listed as the main specific concerns. Asking about methods of dealing with the problem,  25 per cent called for greater use of low-carbon technologies, while 15 per cent said all electricity production should be switched to renewables; a similar proportion said that electricity usage should be reduced, but 52 per cent opposed increasing taxes on products that increase pollution and carbon emissions.

The IMechE’s head of energy and environment, Jenny Baxter, said that the government needed to be aware of the concerns and that managing the cost of dealing with climate change needs to be balanced against controlling pollution. “As we’ve seen in recent years, the UK is particularly susceptible to flooding and sea level rises, and this is something we are likely to see more of unless urgent action is taken to prevent and adapt to climate change.’ She said. “With the UN climate change talks in Paris just four months away and speculation mounting over cuts to public spending, government needs to clarify how the UK will meet its ambitious carbon reduction targets.”

Baxter stressed that cheaper options are not necessarily better when it comes to tackling climate change. “The cheapest options for energy generally remain the high carbon options.  It’s therefore an unfortunate reality that reducing spending will mean increasing emissions. By allowing the market to drive energy options, we could end up with the ‘worst case’ in terms of pollution.”