Do you ever feel like the news is just a mashup of trailers for disaster movies?
Last year, global temperatures were the fourth-hottest in history; Britain experienced its hottest ever day on July 25; while the Amazon is literally on fire. We’re in the eye of the climate storm. No wonder most of us aren’t sleeping very well.
It’s rubbing off too: an Evening Standard exclusive has revealed the results of an Ipsos MORI survey, which found that 85% of adults in the UK are now worried about the climate crisis — the highest recorded since polling began on the issue in 2005
Meanwhile, 52% of people said they were “very concerned” about climate change, an increase from 18% five years ago.
More than half believe the government should reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to net zero more quickly than the current 2050 deadline — and three-quarters think the country is already feeling the effects of climate change, up from 41% in 2010.
“In 2005-6 we saw a peak in concern about the environment, reflecting the prominence of media reporting around, for example, Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, the Kyoto Protocol coming into effect, and the Stern Report," said Antonia Dickman, head of environment research at Ipsos MORI. “But climate fatigue appeared to set in, particularly in the aftermath of the economic crash."
“Recently, though, concern has been creeping up again, after events such as Extinction Rebellion, the school strikes for climate, and climate emergencies being declared by local authorities," she added. The data compiled answers from 1,007 interviews over the phone between July 26 and 30.
New for @standardnews: 85% of Britons are now concerned about #climatechange with the majority (52%) 'very concerned' - the highest level of concern we have recorded https://t.co/9cLPLjMXcG#environmentpic.twitter.com/C6eoSGHW3V— Ipsos MORI (@IpsosMORI) August 21, 2019
It follows a similar poll released by YouGov on June 5 for World Environment Day.
The poll found that 27% of people placed it among the most important three issues facing the country — just behind Brexit at 67% and health at 32%. It appears that concern for the scriptwriters of the final season of Game of Thrones didn’t quite make the cut.
As you can see in the below graph, there was a tremendous peak in environmental concern around the Extinction Rebellion protests in April.
The direct action group brought London to a standstill as it spent weeks peacefully shutting down bridges, camping out in parliament square, and supergluing activists to public transport.
It was described by organisers as the biggest civil disobedience event in modern British history. There were over 1,000 arrests in total — eventually pressuring the government into voting to become the first country in the world to declare a climate emergency.
Today is #WorldEnvironmentDay and concern about the environment has reached record levels. 27% of Brits list it as one of the top 3 issues facing the nation, with a big boost since April after the Extinction Rebellion protests / Greta Thunberg's activismhttps://t.co/AJBZ8xi7Kmpic.twitter.com/W7IuDfjEGl— YouGov (@YouGov) June 5, 2019
Extinction Rebellion were joined in London by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old activist who was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for her trailblazing work inspiring the global school strikes protesting against inaction on climate change. While here, she met the leaders from every major political party — apart from Theresa May, the departing prime minister, for whom she left an empty chair.
"This ongoing irresponsible behaviour will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind," Thunberg told parliament on her visit.
"You don't listen to the science because you are only interested in the answers that will allow you to carry on as if nothing has happened,” she added.
Thunberg has since set sail from Plymouth to New York on a zero-emissions yacht to attend the UN Climate Action Summit on September 23. The young activist refuses to fly because of the environmental impact of aeroplanes.
Heroic students all over the country just skipped school to protest climate change! ✊🌍 So we talked to a few of them to ask them why it's so important.— Global Citizen UK (@GlblCtznUK) February 15, 2019
(Wait until the end — it's worth it we promise) 💕 #YouthStrike4Climate#SchoolStrike4Climate#ClimateStrikepic.twitter.com/z5BXpbGk1H
It seems the country noticed — especially young people.
The YouGov poll showed that a mammoth 45% of 18 to 24-year-olds believe environmental issues are one of the country’s biggest concerns — edged out by B-who-must-not-be-named at 57% (Brexit, not Benioff).
YouGov identified the rise in attention as a long term trend: The previous record high in concern for the environment was 23% in February 2014, when powerful winds and storms battered the UK, killing several people.