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Perceptions of climate impacts at odds with scientific data

April 1, 2021

By Paul Homewood



Talking of a pleasant spring day Britain’s wild weather:



A new Savanta ComRes poll commissioned by the Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) has revealed low levels of public awareness of key trends relating to climate change and international development.

The survey of British adults suggests that the public perceive the impacts of climate change to be more negative than the academic research would suggest. However, there is also a significant minority of the public who say they are ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ concerned by climate change.

In total, 28% of respondents said they were ‘very concerned’ about climate change, 42% said ‘fairly concerned’, 18% were ‘not very concerned’ and 6.4% described themselves as ‘not at all concerned’.

Surprisingly, younger people were actually less likely to say they were ‘very concerned’ about climate change than older generations.

Respondents were then asked a series of questions to test their knowledge of key trends. The first one asked ‘To the closest degree, how much has the average global temperature on Earth risen in the last 150 years?’ They were given a choice between ‘10°C’, ‘5°C’ and ‘1°C’.

Just 21% of respondents gave the correct answer of ‘1°C’, with 35% saying ‘5°C’, and 16% thought the world would warm by a staggering ‘10°C’, a figure that would mean the Earth was at its hottest for tens of millions of years.

The next question looked at mortality from climate-related natural disasters[1]. In contrast to alarming press coverage about extreme weather, the number of people dying has actually fallen by 95% since the 1920s, according to data from the OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database. Only 8.8% of respondents replied correctly, with 12% saying it had increased by 95% and 42% saying it had increased by 25%.

Recent coverage of wildfires in the western United States and in Australia has helped create a perception that wildfires are becoming more frequent. Headlines such as ‘Australia is being burned alive by the climate crisis’and dramatic footage of wildfires could well be influencing people’s views.

But the data show that fires are not becoming more frequent or widespread worldwide. While there is evidence to suggest that ‘fire weather’ is becoming more common in certain areas, overall this impact is more than counteracted by fire suppression efforts. These efforts have led to a ~25% reduction in the annual global burnt area since 2003, a finding that is based on observations from NASA satellites.

There was low public awareness of this trend, with a plurality of respondents (39%) answering that they thought the total land area affected by wildfires had actually increased by 25% since 2003. 10% of people thought that the area affected had ‘decreased by 50%’ and 16% gave the correct answer of a decrease of 25%.

One question that the public seemed to have a better grasp of was the rate of global sea level rise. 34% gave the correct answer according to the Royal Society, of 3.6mm/year on average over the past decade, with 20% opting for 0.36mm/year and 12% going for 30.6mm/year.

The final question concerned food production. Statistics from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) show that global food production has increased by 34% since 2005. While 39% of respondents were able to correctly identify that food production had increased during this period, a significant share, 20%, thought food production had actually gone down.

The results support the findings of previous studies which show a strong negativity bias when people are asked about changes to living conditions. This appears to be no different when it comes to climate change, with the public disposed to believe that things are getting worse; whether that be the physical processes of extreme weather themselves, or their impact on society. 


There is no doubt our disgracefully biased media is largely responsible for this situation. Only a couple of weeks ago, I was chatting to my 80 year old neighbour and the conversation got round to climate change, to which she commented on how “it was getting much worse”!

Why, asked I? “Oh, I’ve been watching that David Attenborough” came the reply.

It was a struggle not to swear!

  1. will davis permalink
    April 1, 2021 6:56 pm

    It is hardly surprising considering the constant barrage of; ‘we are doomed’ hype from the BBC. Climate change is part of nearly all BBC output these days, drama, science including the weather forecast! The rest of the media tag along behind, none of them has bothered to look at the UHA temperature data. How can we change minds when all the media is spouting out nonsense? Hopefully, the East will tell the West where to go regarding CO2 output, which should raise some questions.

  2. M. Fraser permalink
    April 1, 2021 7:41 pm

    Here in North Wales it changes every day.

    • Lorde Late permalink
      April 1, 2021 8:12 pm

      Normally from ‘Wet to Wetter’
      only joking! Ive spent many weekends in Snowdonia under clear blue skys when back at home in kent its been miserable
      Just look at this week!

      • Gerry, England permalink
        April 2, 2021 2:36 pm

        Many years ago I spent 2 weeks over Easter on holiday in North Wales. In the first week the weather was glorious and it was getting so warm in my van it was t-shirt time and a light coat outside. Second week was a bit different and my last night camping at Bala Lake saw frost on the tent. Stiil, I was lucky to get then as two years later and down in South Wales for the same period and there was snow. Luckily not that much and on the hills but N Wales got whacked with around 9 inches in places.

  3. John Smith permalink
    April 1, 2021 8:44 pm

    Anyone seen this in The Telegraph?

    Melting Arctic Sea ice caused Beast from the East-and more could be on the way.

    Don’t know where to start. Lovely and cool with brilliant sunshine in this part of Scotland. Bring it on.

    • Mack permalink
      April 1, 2021 9:06 pm

      Just under 14.5 million km2 of ice up there at the moment. Nothing melting out of the ordinary. Was the article written by Michael Mann perchance?

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      April 2, 2021 10:11 am

      I would keep the thermals handy for a few days yet, John. Forecast for Easter and next week is talking of snow as far south as central France! Maybe Scotland will miss out. Either way I’m not planting potatoes this weekend.

      On the article itself, Lomborg’s “False Alarm” is a must-read and his podcast on Spiked Online is also useful. There is NO climate emergency!!

  4. Tonyb permalink
    April 1, 2021 9:13 pm

    This has very close parallels with people’s views of the pandemic and explains many attitudes to wanting to be locked down more and their willingness to wear masks etc.

    The telegraph ran a survey last year and a very significant proportion of respondents, scared witless by the propaganda, were convinced that 10% of the UK population had died with another significant proportion believing it was 5%

    Attenborough, thunberg, the BBC are pushing a particular view point and constant pictures of wild fires, melting ice, floods all have an impact when no context is provided.

    • April 2, 2021 12:20 pm

      This is the hoped for results of the public schools system no longer teaching critical thinking or discernment. Couple that with the lack of real substance being taught and, voila, today’s easily panicked public.

  5. April 1, 2021 9:20 pm

    In my locality over the last 50 years the local planning authority have allowed development of the floodplain of our little brook. All supported by expert Flood Risk Assessments etc.

    The land for the hundreds of new houses was raised above the level of the older housing to meet planning requirements. There is nowhere for the flood water to go anymore, so it floods the older housing which never got flooded before.

    The Planning Authority say its climate change is the cause, the real cause is the planning system and experts who just produce reports that give the answers the developers want. I have yet to read a planning Flood Risk Assessment that says “don’t build here”.

    • Mal F permalink
      April 1, 2021 10:00 pm

      25 years ago they started building in the vale of York, these new houses remarkably were flooded, owners complained they’d been sacrificed to save York. Well if they’d bothered to visit the King’s Arms by the River Ouse in York there is a pillar inside with the date and height of each flood going back decades, shame it must fill the cellar each time, but literally the writing was on the wall.

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      April 2, 2021 10:16 am

      The message never seems to get through, does it? Several people commented at the time that building houses on land called Fishlake was bound to turn out badly sooner or later!

  6. Jack Broughton permalink
    April 1, 2021 9:48 pm

    What is actually amazing is that only 28% were really concerned given the welter of drivel and fake news that our meja are promulgating. There is hope of a counter-move if only one of the power-brokers (like that ancient barons) would step forward. It looks as though they all see a nice gravy train even though it will do nothing for the climate and wreck the UK economy.

    • April 2, 2021 12:32 am

      I’m STILL waiting for the official announcement of when Andrew Neil’s new GB News channel is going to launch. He said it would be March – well that has now passed. I am putting so much hope in what he may bring. I shall probably end up disappointed, like usual, but there is still a glimmer of hope left. Apart from him, I see very little hope of climate truth being put before the general public, on the horizon, at all.

      • Phil O'Sophical permalink
        April 2, 2021 9:58 am

        Checkout ‘Outsiders’ on Sky News Australia. Proudly demolishing everything PC, woke, Biden and the far-left democrats, lefty lunacy, victim culture, climate nonsense; just common sense across the board. An absolute tonic. Saturday 9pm on their news stream (but with long ad breaks), or ad-free a day later on the Australia Channel App.

        Somehow I don’t think GB News will come near this.

  7. Mal F permalink
    April 1, 2021 9:53 pm

    The D Telegraph yesterday has a photograph of the £24000 statue of Greta put up by Winchester University, I had wondered what they were doing with the surplus student fees. Look forward to ‘climate deniers’ pulling it down!

    • Phil O'Sophical permalink
      April 2, 2021 10:02 am

      Not to mention all the CO2 released and energy wasted from mining the ores to processing and casting. But hypocrisy is their middle name.

  8. cookers52 permalink
    April 2, 2021 12:30 pm

    lengthy weather report for 1844
    Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR3222/1
    The state of the weather has always been a crucial consideration for farmers, preoccupied as they are with crop yields and livestock husbandry. Both the length and the content of this report bear witness to this.

    The heat of the summer with light showers made for good harvest weather, while the steadier rain of subsequent months onto soil already warmed by the sun was conducive to the sowing of winter wheat. In contrast the severe frosts early in the following year devastated the bean crop and the heavy rains in later months levelled the crops of wheat. In 1844 the most salient feature of the year came in the dry months from late March to the middle of August. In the searing heat of that month pools and wells almost dried up and pastures shrivelled away, causing cattle to die. As Battle Farm was a mixed farm, with the production of wheat and other cereals appearing to take greater precedence, the impact of this crisis was likely to be of rather less importance than might have otherwise been the case.

    Given the current concern of possible global warming, there is a popular conception that seasons long past were more clearly defined. This is not always supported by the weather reports gleaned from the newspapers and diaries of the 19th century, as illustrated by the description of the very mild December at the bottom of the report, (which continued into early January of 1845).

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