Roughly one in six Britons insist human-caused climate change is not real, while 25 per cent of the majority who believe it is real report having been personally affected by it, research published on Wednesday showed.
Although one in four people said they felt climate change has affected them personally, only 39 per cent said the country as a whole is seeing the effects of climate change — something that could lead to delays in action.
“One in six Brits still think it’s false that the climate change we’re experiencing is mainly caused by human activity — which is a real concern, as it may affect support for action,” said Bobby Duffy, director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London.
The study, carried out by the institute, is part of a European Commission project investigating public trust in expertise.
Six countries were included in the study — the UK, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Norway and Poland — to reflect a range of location within Europe, population size, GDP levels, political structure and levels of trust in institutions.
“One of the most powerful drivers of concern and support for action is actually seeing the effects of climate change, and this is certainly starting to happen across many countries,” said Mr Duffy.
“For example, four in 10 Brits say climate change is harming the country, and three quarters are concerned about its impact.”
Of the six nations, only Norway — a fossil fuel giant whose territory includes part of the Arctic Circle — had fewer people than the UK who think climate change is already causing damage.
Certain minority groups in the UK also appear to reject climate change realities.
One in six (17 per cent) of UK adults say it is false that climate change is mainly caused by human activities — but seven in 10 (72 per cent) believe this is true.
About one in eight (13 per cent) in the UK say they do not believe that the last century’s global increase in temperature was the largest during the past 1,000 years, compared with two thirds (64 per cent) who recognise it as true.
As to the scientific consensus on climate change, the UK public estimates that 65 per cent of climate scientists have concluded human-caused climate change is happening — far lower than the reality of 99.9 per cent.
“These sorts of findings show how careful we need to be in giving credence and airtime to very niche contrarian climate science views,” Mr Duffy said.
“But we also need to bear in mind that our misperceptions of realities can be driven by our underlying attitudes and values — because we tend to look for evidence that fits our already held views.
“This means that simply telling people they’re wrong may not shift opinions and beliefs very much, and we need to engage people in a range of different ways.”