Concern over environment doubles amid climate warnings and weather extremes
By Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent
Levels of public concern about the environment have doubled this month in the face of warnings from climate scientists and extreme weather, polling suggests.
Nearly a third of people (32%) said climate change, the environment and pollution were a major issue for Britain, putting it second only to the pandemic as a key concern, the August 2021 Ipsos MORI issues index found.
The proportion who named the environment as one of the most important issues facing the country today climbed 16 percentage points compared to July, overtaking issues such as the economy and NHS, the data show.
The polling of 1,013 people was conducted between August 6-13, during which time the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a major review of science which set out the stark impact humans are having on the planet.
It said human activity such as burning fossil fuels was unequivocally driving the climate crisis, with impacts such as deadly heatwaves, floods and storms already being felt, and more dangerous warming was on the way without urgent action.
There have also been reports of fires and devastating flooding around the world in recent weeks.
Ipsos MORI said it is the second highest level of concern recorded for the environment since it was added as an option in 1988, only behind July 1989 when the highest temperature since 1976 was recorded at Heathrow and 35% said the environment was a key worry.
Mike Clemence, a researcher at Ipsos MORI, said: “Public concern about the environment has reached an historically high level this month, with publication of the new IPCC report and reports of fires and flooding around the world.
“But this jump in concern is built on a steady rise in the level of worry on this topic which has been building since around 2015.
“We also see public worry about Covid-19 dropping again to the lowest level since the start of the pandemic – but it remains seen as the number one issue facing Britain for the public.”
Covid-19 was named as a big issue for 40% of people in August, down eight percentage points from July and 35 percentage points below its highest score this year of 75% in January.
When it came to the environment, older people were more likely to mention it as a concern in August – with 38% of the over-55s saying it was a major issue, compared to 24% of 18-34 year olds.
But there was little difference between supporters of different parties, with 30% of Conservative supporters mentioning the environment as one of the most important issues facing Britain, compared to 33% of Labour voters.