There is no doubt public confidence in climate research has taken a battering over the last 18 months. High profile disagreements, mistakes, email releases and the failure of the IPCC to reach agreement have given rise to a great deal of negative media reports. But is the impact of the all the negative publicity wearing off? Some recent polls give mixed messages on the current state of public opinion on climate science…
In Norway, the TNS Gallup Climate Barometer was published a few weeks ago. This barometer shows a clear drop in the percentage of people who think climate change is man-made from 74% in autumn 2009 to 65% in autumn 2010. The report suggests that lower media attention and fewer personal experiences (of e.g. recycling, insulating lofts) explain this trend. The credibility of the IPCC Climate Panel in Norway is also low- 41% of Norwegians think it is influenced by politics, compared to 33% who think it is independent and 26% who don’t know.
The news from the UK is less dramatic, with a Guardian/ICM poll published at the end of January showing no significant change in the public’s view on climate change. 83% of the British public believe climate change to be a significant threat with only 14% blaming non-man made factors. These levels have remained steady since August 2009.
An American poll from Yale University in June 2010 revealed that only 50% of the US public think “global warming is caused mostly by human activities”. In November 2008 this was 57% but in January 2010 it was 47% so perhaps this trend has turned the corner. A more worrying trend is seen regarding opinions on scientific consensus. 45% of the US public think there is disagreement amongst scientists about whether climate change is happening at all, compared to 33% in November 2008.
And in Sweden? The signs are positive. Our own VA barometer (coming soon in English!) shows that 75% of the Swedish public think that research can help slow climate change, an increase of 6% since 2009.