An Analysis of the British Public’s Concerns Regarding Climate Change Legislation

By Ruth Woods, Sharon Coen and Ana Fernandez.

Published by The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

On October 16th 2008, Ed Miliband, the UK government’s Energy and Climate Change Secretary, announced that Britain will sign up to a legally binding commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. This ambitious legislation will need public support if it is to succeed, yet a recent MORI poll revealed widespread scepticism among the British public regarding the science of climate change and the government’s motives in addressing it (Ipsos MORI, 2008). This raises the important question, addressed in this paper, of what concerns British people have about the new legislation. We analysed 348 comments posted in response to online versions of UK newspaper articles reporting Ed Miliband’s announcement. Thematic analysis was employed in order to identify recurring issues raised by those commenting. It was found that a wide range of criticisms were made of the legislation, including suggestions that it was an excuse for higher taxes; that it would be bad for the country (by making it less competitive and/or by lowering standards of living), and that it is superfluous because the UK contributes relatively little on a global scale. Criticisms of climate change science and environmentalism were also common. However, some commenters were more positive and many proposed and discussed alternative ways in which the government could cut greenhouse gas emissions. The kinds of comments made varied according to the newspaper being responded to. Our findings provide useful insights into the concerns that the British government will need to address if the British public are to embrace the legislation, and may provide pointers for other governments considering similar legislation.

Keywords: Climate Change, Public Opinion, Government, Legislation, Skepticism

The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.75-92. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.953MB).

Dr. Ruth Woods

Senior Lecturer, Department of Applied Social Sciences, Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury, Kent, UK

I am a senior lecturer in psychology at Canterbury Christ Church University. I am interested in media representations of climate change, children’s understanding of climate change, and in how children learn about ethnicity, religion, status and friendship through their social relations at school.

Dr. Sharon Coen

Lecturer, Department of Applied Social Sciences, Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury, Kent, UK

I am a lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University since October 2007. I am interested in media representations of climate change, media effects on political and social issues, intergroup relations and reconciliation.

Dr. Ana Fernandez

Lecturer, Department of Applied Social Sciences, Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury, Kent, UK

Undergraduate degree in Psychology; PhD in Psychology. I have worked as a lecturer at Canterbury Christ Church University since 2007.

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