83% of Brits Believe Global Warming is an Imminent Threat


Photo Credit: christine zenino via Flickr/CC BY

England has been hit by unusually cold winters for the last two years -- the cold seasons of both 2009 and 2010 were more frigid than usual. And then there were those hacked climate emails -- which were actually leaked from a famous research center right there in England -- that breathless skeptics were eager to claim revealed that the whole global warming thing was a hoax. But wouldn't you know it; those two favorite skeptic talking points haven't gained much traction. The people of England still believe climate change poses as much of a threat now as they did two years ago. Here's the Guardian:

Asked if climate change was a current or imminent threat, 83% of Britons agreed, with just 14% saying global warming poses no threat. Compared with August 2009, when the same question was asked, opinion remained steady despite a series of events in the intervening 18 months that might have made people less certain about the perils of climate change. Emails between climate researchers that were released online in November 2009 had led to unfounded suggestions that the scientific basis for global warming was flawed. World leaders also failed to agree to a global deal to combat warming and a mistake over the melting of Himalayan glaciers was handled badly by the UN's science panel.
On top of that the vast majority of Brits still believe that humankind is causing the climate to warm, too -- a full 68%, down only 3% from the same time two years ago. So what's the deal? Do the British simply have more respect for science than Americans?

It might be tempting to argue as much, especially given the traction that anti-science dogma still gets in the public sphere over here -- we are the land of Creationist theme parks, opposition to teaching evolution in schools, and the world's best-educated climate change deniers, after all. But that's hardly the whole story. We're also the land of extreme corporatist influence -- where corporations are viewed by law as people (really, really wealthy people), and where the leaders of those corporations have direct access to legislators, and a unique ability to influence public policy.

Between the two, it's really no surprise we consistently see high margins of disbelief in the scientifically observed fact that human greenhouse emissions are warming the planet.

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