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Page added on December 30, 2007

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UK: ‘Green fatigue’ leads to fear of backlash over climate change

British people are now convinced about the dangers of global warming but are either baffled about how to stop it or are ignoring the issue.

Analysts say few people are taking action to deal with the threat of climate change, although over the past 12 months the vast majority have come to accept that it poses a real threat to the world. Opinion polls reveal much confusion among the public about what Britain should do to combat the problem.
A backlash is now a real threat, said Phil Downing, head of environmental research for Ipsos Mori. ‘There’s cynicism because on the one hand we’re being told [the problem] is very serious and on the other hand we’re building runways, mining Alaskan oil; there’s a lot going on that appears to be heading in the opposite direction.’

In Britain, people have made no noticeable changes to their behaviour and are taking increased numbers of car journeys, going on more flights, pumping out more carbon dioxide and using more electricity to heat their homes. At the same time there is deep antagonism towards green taxes and the introduction of wind farms to the countryside to generate carbon-free electricity.

But we do at least understand the danger we are in, experts added. Pat Thomas, editor of the Ecologist, said reports about conditions at the North and South Poles – including the breaking up of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, the opening of the North-west Passage through the Arctic, and studies which suggested the Arctic could be ice-free in summer by 2013 – had been particularly important in changing public perceptions.

In addition, changes in seasons, campaigning films, storms, floods and media reports about spreading droughts helped convince a once-sceptical nation in 2007 that global warming is real and man-made. Opinion polls now indicate that nine out of 10 UK citizens believe climate change is occurring and is being driven by human activities – in particular increases in industrial emissions of carbon dioxide.


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