Be skeptical of the latest 'skeptical' UK pollster headlines

Be skeptical of the latest 'skeptical' UK pollster headlines
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A recent IpsosMori poll in the UK found that 56% of people agree that “many leading experts still question if human activity is contributing to climate change.”

The newspaper headline interpretations of this latest poll would lead the reader to believe that climate change, for all its media attention, is somehow not real in the minds of the British or that people are ‘in denial.’

Here’s some of the headlines from major UK outlets that came to the exact conclusion:

Public Unconvinced on Climate

Voters haven’t warmed to climate change

Public ‘sceptical about climate change’

Public ‘in denial’ about climate change

Looking closer at the polling data available from the Ispos research, here’s some headlines you won’t find.

Headline:
Overwhelming majority believe global warming caused by humans
A recent IsposMori poll finds that 69% of people in the UK agree that “human activity has a significant impact on the climate.”

Headline:
Major public concern about global warming effects on future generations
A recent IpsosMori poll finds that while only 38% of people in the UK believe climate change is having an impact now, 90% believe it will have a ‘significant impact’ on future generations.

Headline:
Is climate change exaggerated? Most Brits disagree, new poll suggests
A new IpsosMori poll out today finds that 75% of people in the UK disagree with the statement that climate change has been ‘exaggerated’ and causes ‘too much fuss.’

Headline:
Voters demanding action on climate change
A poll released today by IpsosMori finds that over 70% of people in the UK believe that government should take the lead in combating climate change, even if it means using the law to change people’s behavior.

What this poll points to, and what the headlines clearly missed, is a great deal of concern, mixed with a great deal of confusion. For example, the same poll found that the most oft-quoted solution to global warming is recycling.

When you analyze the IpsosMori poll as a whole, taking into account all the findings, it is clear that whether people believe that the “scientific debate is over” is not a very good indicator of whether people believe climate change is real or not, or whether they are concerned or not. It is more likely that such a finding is simply tapping into the long held (and correct) social belief that scientists are ever skeptical and ever-questioning. Unfortunately, this finding is also tapping into the effects of some savvy PR pros who take advantage of the “skeptical scientist” image and prop up in the media “skeptical” scientists and “skeptical” organizations with close ties to fossil fuel interests, like ExxonMobil and Koch Industries. Hence the reason we refer to such people as “deniers,” not “skeptics.”

As the IpsosMori pollsters rightly point out, continuing to communicate the issue of global warming, the causes, the effects and the solutions is the prescription. For instance, the Live Earth concert this weekend will be a global warming education mega-dose. And skepticism or not, the public concern over global warming continues to grow regardless of what these latest headlines may have you believe.

Check out Paul Sauven at the Guardian for another take. 

Be skeptical of the latest 'skeptical' UK pollster headlines

Kevin is a contributor and strategic adviser to DeSmogBlog.

He runs the digital marketing agency Spake Media House. Named a “Green Hero” by Rolling Stone Magazine and one of the “Top 50 Tweeters” on climate change and environment issues, Kevin has appeared in major news media outlets around the world for his work on digital campaigning.

Kevin has been involved in the public policy arena in both the United States and Canada for more than a decade. For five years he was the managing editor of DeSmogBlog.com. In this role, Kevin’s research into the “climate denial industry” and the right-wing think tank networks was featured in news media articles around the world. He is most well known for his ground-breaking research into David and Charles Koch’s massive financial investments in the Republican and tea party networks.

Kevin is the first person to be designated a “Certified Expert” on the political and community organizing platform NationBuilder.

Prior to DeSmogBlog, Kevin worked in various political and government roles. He was Senior Advisor to the Minister of State for Multiculturalism and a Special Assistant to the Minister of State for Asia Pacific, Foreign Affairs for the Government of Canada. Kevin also worked in various roles in the British Columbia provincial government in the Office of the Premier and the Ministry of Health.

In 2008 Kevin co-founded a groundbreaking new online election tool called Vote for Environment which was later nominated for a World Summit Award in recognition of the world’s best e-Content and innovative ICT applications.

Kevin moved to Washington, DC in 2010 where he worked for two years as the Director of Online Strategy for Greenpeace USA and has since returned to his hometown of Vancouver, Canada.

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