America and UK Lead the World in Climate Scepticism

A member of the ONG Sierra Club wearing a polar bear costume demonstrates against the countries who according to them are avoiding the climate change issue, in a beach in Cancun on December 3, 2010, in the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-16). The November …
Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images

The United States and United Kingdom are leading the way in climate change scepticism, according to a recent survey which has found that one in three Americans and one in four Brits don’t believe climate change is a serious problem. By comparison, just four percent of Chinese and two percent of Malaysians agree.

The figures emerged from a YouGov survey ahead of historic climate change talks due to take place in Paris later this year. Global leaders will meet at the COP21 meeting to thrash out a new agreement on what to do about carbon emissions and global warming, despite no rise in temperatures being recorded for nearly two decades.

Meanwhile, the Pope is set to deliver an encyclical on the environment which is expected to urge Catholics world-wide to do their bit in driving down carbon emissions and halt the non-existent warming.

And for good measure, the BBC has been playing it’s part in softening up opposition to the measures likely to be proposed by ministers at the COP21. Earlier this month, Guido reported that the BBC’s environment correspondent Helen Briggs “treated readers to an account of how the signing of the Montreal Protocol saved the world by stopping the Ozone hole from expanding.”

By amazing coincidence, one of the scientists interviewed by Briggs believes there are parallels to be drawn between Montreal and Paris, saying: “The protocol provides a lesson for the future and we must hope that the coming climate change talks show the same foresight and result in a treaty that will benefit the whole planet”

But the public aren’t buying it. Earlier this month, YouGov asked 1667 British people “How serious a problem, if at all, do you consider climate change (or global warming) to be?” 20 percent said they thought it was not very serious, and a further six percent said that it was not serious at all.

Across the pond they’re even more sceptical: of the 1000 Americans asked, 16 percent said it was not very serious, and another 16 percent said it was not serious at all.

Our European cousins are also fairly sceptical: a combined total of 23 percent of Finns and 22 percent of Norwegians thought that it was nothing much to worry about. France was the least sceptical nation, with just one in ten French people relaxed about climate change. In Germany, 50 percent of those asked thought it was a “very serious problem”.

Yet across Asia and the Pacific, people are much more concerned about climate change. Just two percent of Malaysians, three percent of Indonesians and four percent of Chinese thought climate change was nothing to worry about. Thailand was the most sceptical Asia/ Pacific nation surveyed – six percent of their population are unconcerned about climate change.

Conversely, 82 percent of Indonesians and 69 percent of Malaysians think climate change is very serious.

The pattern was similar when participants were asked what their country’s strategy should be at the upcoming COP21 talks. Just one percent of people from China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand respectively thought that their governments should “not agree to any international agreement that addresses climate change”.

60 percent of the Chinese and Hong Kong participants want their governments to “play a leadership role in setting ambitious targets to address climate change as quickly as possible,” as do 57 percent of Indonesians.

At the other end of the scale, 44 percent of Americans wanted their country to play a leading role, while 17 percent wanted their government to do nothing. In the UK, those figures were 41 percent and seven percent respectively. 21 percent of Americans also thought that their government was already doing too much to tackle climate change, as did 14 percent of Brits.

Perhaps the discrepancy is down to the fact that ‘doing something’ invariably means countries such as the US and UK giving away vast sums of taxpayers’ money to countries such as China and Indonesia.

At the last major climate summit to take place, at Copenhagen in 2009, rich countries promised to hand over at least $100 billion (£65 billion) a year to developing countries by 2020. So far much of the money has not been forthcoming, but Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, who will preside over the Paris talks, has now said that it must be handed over as a way of securing trust between the nations.

Speaking over the weekend, he said: “The question of financing is, in fact, decisive for reaching an agreement in Paris.

“The promise of Copenhagen must be kept, absolutely – it is the basis of trust, and for many countries it is the condition of reaching agreement. Therefore, it is a priority as president [of the negotiations].”

Last September China delivered a document to the UN stipulating that it will not cut any emissions unless the West pays up. The document reiterated that China’s action on climate change was “dependent on the adequate finance and technology support provided by developed country parties” to any new climate accord, and that the payments must come from “new, additional, adequate, predictable and sustained public funds.”

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