The latest Populus figures are coming up in the moment, but first here are the details of YouGov’s poll on the environment from Saturday’s Telegraph on global warming and climate change.

The overwhelming majority of people now believe that global warming is taking place – 85% agree with only 8% disagreeing and 7% saying don’t know. 79% of people think that global warming will accelerate in the next few decades unless something is done and 76% of people think those who draw attention to the issue of global warming and doing so for good reason, not being alarmist.

On the question of what should be done people are rather less certain. Only 38% of people say radical action must be taken immediately, more people (49%) would prefer to put off any radical action until we have a better understanding of climate change. Few of those people who think that action should be taken think it would be pain-free – only 27% think that, if action is taken quickly enough global warming can be curbed without damaging our standard of living. 45% think standards of living will have to rise more slowly, while 19% though the West would have to reduce it’s standard of living to curb global warming (if you look at the breaks is it not the case, as I thought it might be, that the people who want urgent action are the ones who think it will be painless. In fact, those who want urgent action are slightly more likely to think it will damage living standards).

Perhaps some of the reluctance to take immediate action is that few people think global warming will greatly disadvantage them personally. 32% of people think that global warming will make little differnece to them through the course of their life, 34% think it will make things a little worse and only 13% think it will make things a lot worse (surprisingly there is not a vast difference between age groups here. 12% of over 55s think it will make their life a lot worse, 15% of under 35s do). People are far more pessimistic when they think about their children and grandchildren – 48% think global warming will make their lives a lot worse.

Another reason is probably the lack of confidence in international co-operation on fighting global warming. People are reluctant to take action, because they don’t think other countries will do their bit. Very few (5%) people think Britain can make any significant contribution on her own, rather there needs to be action by nearly all the countries of the world. However, there is little confidence amongst the British public that such a thing is possible. Only 19% of people think the chances of the major energy using countries of the world coming together and agreeing on common measures are very good or fairly good. 76% think they are not very good or not at all good. Specifically, only 24% of people think that the USA would comply with any common measures agreed, and only 17% think China, India and Russia would.

On a more domestic level YouGov asked what steps people would personally be willing to take to cut their energy use, even without any financial incentives. The suggestion that met with most approval was improving home insulation, which 61% of people would be prepared to do (possibly because it has a direct benefit to people themselves as well as the environment, in having a warmer house and lower heating bills). Next most popular was changing shopping habits – 52% said they would be willing to buy more locally produced food and 51% would be prepared to try and buy more unpackaged food. People were less willing to do things that would directly limit their actions, such as take fewer holidays or flights (27%) or drive less (25%).

Asked about what the government would do, people were generally more positive about taxes that would not directly affect them, and more positive about taxes that discriminated against bad behaviour. In other words, environmental taxes on businesses were popular – 83% supported taxes on businesses that emitted greenhouse gases and 66% supported taxes on restaurants and businesses that produced a lot of waste. Taxes that only affected “bad” behaviour were popular – 72% supported extra tax on large executive and 4×4 cars, 42% supported higher council tax on houses that produced a lot of waste (47% opposed that, but 42% of people wanting any sort of increase in council tax is unusual in itself). In contrast increased tax on petrol was highly unpopular – 65% would oppose it. Once again, despite not discriminating and likely to affect many individuals, extra taxes on flights were narrowly approved of 46% to 40%.

The motoring taxes were interesting – there are often contradictory polls on whether or not people support extra environmental taxes. I’ve noted before that people seem to approve of extra taxes on flights, but not on cars. This poll adds an extra nuance. The majority of people don’t mind extra taxes on motoring, as long as they only effect large “gas guzzling” cars, in contrast the majority of people would be opposed to motoring taxes that effected everyone, such as an increase in fuel duty.

Finally YouGov asked which party would best handle the issue of global warming. The Conservatives lead on 14%, followed by Labour on 10% and the Lib Dems on 6%. 25% said none of them, 14% said all the parties equally.


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