COLUMN-Peak oil, not climate change worries most Britons: Kemp
Nearly 2,500 people were surveyed across England, Scotland and Wales in August 2012. The results, published on Tuesday in a report on "Transforming the UK energy system: public values, attitudes and acceptability," provide a trove of information about public opinion on climate and energy policy.
By a large majority, respondents were either very concerned (24 percent) or fairly concerned (50 percent) about climate change and thought it was partly (48 percent) or mainly (28 percent) caused by human activity.
Keeping bills affordable was the most important single priority for respondents (40 percent) followed by making sure the United Kingdom has enough energy to prevent blackouts and fuel shortages (32 percent). Tackling climate change came a distant third (27 percent).
Turning the question on its head, climate change was the least important priority for almost half of the respondents (48 percent).
When asked for their reasons, respondents cited concerns about fossil fuels running out, being unsustainable or non-renewable (48 percent), costly (7 percent) and implied dependence on other countries (5 percent), compared with worries they are harmful to the environment and polluting (19 percent) or contribute to climate change (17 percent).
Cost is clearly central in discussions about energy and climate change, though the study's authors tend to downplay its importance.