This is the story that’s made me the most angry in recent months, but I missed writing about it because I was on holiday (better late than never). It’s the Observer story with the headline: most Britons doubt cause of climate change. It was based on a Ipsos Mori survey that can be found here and if you read the original data and the Observer analysis, you’ll discover how far from the data the news story is.
I sent a letter to the Observer, funnily enough not printed, pointing out that their claims weren’t backed up by the survey data:
…If 42% of people think climate change might not be as bad as people say, they might still think it’s bad or even very bad. The 60% of people that agree that ‘many scientific experts’ question the causes of climate change could believe that these scientists are wrong. Indeed, does ‘many’ mean 10 scientists, 10% of the scientific community or most scientists? Respondents don’t know what the question means…Your poll, and its subsequent analysis, is bad social science.
For the ‘fact’ that ‘Most Britons don’t believe climate change is man-made’ they asked the public to guess the state of play of the world scientific community, instead of asking them if they themselves thought humans were responsible.
As pointed out by those sceptical of climate change, the survey is used to show that the population don’t believe in climate change, and therefore more needs to be done to ram it down people’s throats (the sceptics arguing that it’s already rammed down our throats enough, but that it’s not true). But if you look at the data, and I don’t think many people have, you’ll find a story of most people (77%) being very or fairly concerned about climate change, most people thinking that something can and should be done, including most people saying invest in renewable energy. Just because people can’t be cast-iron certain how bad climate change will be, and how many scientists agree and disagree, doesn’t mean they believe it’s a hoax. Remember, even when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says global warming is real, they still put out a range of scenarios (six in IPCC AR4) because scientists, individually and collectively can’t know exactly how it will pan out.
And finally when asked ‘what is reasonable to expect people to do to tackle climate change’, only 6% of Britons chose ‘There is no need to take any action – climate change is natural/humans are not having that much impact’. Not many sceptics there.