Climate change is becoming one of the most dominating political issues of the current era, prompting us at Redfield & Wilton Strategies to ask the British public just how great of a threat they perceive climate change poses to the UK. Our research finds that 63% of Britons agree that climate change is a direct threat to the United Kingdom—a greater proportion than the 54% of Americans and 55% of Germans who said they view climate change as a direct threat to their nations in our recent polls. In the UK, just 10% disagree and 22% neither agree nor disagree that climate change is a direct threat.
This latest figure does, however, represent a slight decrease since October 2020 in the proportion of respondents who agree that climate change is a direct threat to the UK (then 70%), and a return to the figure found in August 2020 (then 63%).
A majority of all age groups agree with the statement that climate change represents a direct threat to the UK, ranging from 55% of 18-to-24-year-olds to 68% of 55-to-64-year-olds. Accordingly, similar to the results we found in Germany, older respondents are more likely than younger respondents to view climate change as a direct threat to the UK. Further, those who voted Labour in the 2019 General Election (69%) are slightly more likely to agree that climate change is a direct threat than those who voted Conservative (60%).
When respondents were asked how they assess the threat of climate change to the UK relative to that of other countries, almost half (48%) said they believe climate change will have a very negative impact on most countries, including the UK. Less than a fifth of respondents think that climate change will not have a very negative impact on most countries, including the UK (16%), or that climate change will have a very negative impact on most countries, but not so much in the UK (12%). Meanwhile, 17% say they don’t know.
Once again, older respondents are the most likely to say they expect climate change will have a very negative impact on most countries, including the UK, with a majority of those aged 45 to 54 (56%), 55 to 64 (59%), and 65 and over (51%) expressing this view.
More than just viewing climate change as a direct threat to the UK, a majority (61%) of Britons polled agree with a statement suggesting that climate change will make Earth uninhabitable for human beings if not enough is done to combat it. Just 11% disagree with this assessment, whereas 20% neither agree nor disagree.
Unlike the previous two questions, it is the youngest age groups (72% of 18-to-24-year-olds and 66% of 25-to-34-year-olds) that are the most likely to agree that climate change will make Earth uninhabitable for humans if not enough is done to combat it. Still, a majority of all age groups hold this view, along with a majority of 2019 Conservative (55%) and Labour (71%) voters, though to greatly varying extents.
The British public therefore views climate change as a potentially massive and direct threat to the United Kingdom—a threat which many believe has been understated: a plurality of respondents believe the UK Government (42%) and the UK Media (33%) have understated the threat of climate change. About a third of Britons alternatively feel the threat of climate change has been portrayed about right by the Government (33%) and Media (31%). Meanwhile, a greater proportion thinks the threat has been overstated by the Media (21%) than by the Government (10%).
By contrast, a plurality (41%) of the British public believes the threat of climate change has been portrayed about right by British environmental groups and activists, indicating that many Britons find portrayals of the threat of climate change by activists to be more appropriate than those by the Government or the Media. That being said, a quarter (24%) of respondents say British environment groups and activists have overstated the threat posed by climate change, including 37% of 2019 Conservative voters.
Reaffirming these findings, half (50%) of respondents say they find drastic and alarming predictions by climate scientists who model potential future outcomes of the current changes in the environment to be mostly helpful, because they convey the seriousness of the issue. A quarter (26%) instead finds these predictions to be mostly harmful, because they are intimidating and may not be believable, while a further quarter (23%) don’t know. Across age groups, ranging from 46% of 18-to-24-year-olds to 54% of those aged 65 and over, respondents find the climate predictions to be mostly helpful.
For most of the British public, climate change represents a direct threat to both the UK and the entire world, a threat which most Britons believe will leave Earth unliveable if not enough is done to prevent it. Furthermore, many think that this threat is being understated by the Government and Media in the UK, while a plurality say they find British environmental groups and activists’ portrayals of the threat posed by climate change to be about right—even if such portrayals may indeed be drastic and alarming.