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Environment

Most Britons aware but unwilling on climate change

LONDON (Reuters) - Warnings about the effects of climate change have made most Britons aware of the crisis, but few are willing to make major changes to the way they live, a survey showed on Friday.

An electric vehicle is seen parked at a recharging bay in central London March 21, 2007. Warnings about the effects of climate change have made most Britons aware of the crisis, but few are willing to make major changes to the way they live, a survey showed on Friday. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

The Department of the Environment’s annual survey of Attitudes and Behaviours in relation to the environment also suggested that while older people were pessimistic about the climate’s future, the younger generation were less concerned.

“Government is determined to make it possible for people to choose greener lifestyles and to provide advice and encouragement through our Act on CO2 campaign,” said Environment Minister Joan Ruddock.

The survey comes days after the government said it may consider deeper reductions to its current carbon emissions target, which aims to cut them by at least 60 percent by 2050.

The survey, the sixth since 1986, found that six out of 10 people said they knew a lot or a fair amount about climate change and many were willing to do something to help.

But nearly half declared they would not make changes that impinged on their lifestyles and less than three in 10 said they had switched to using a more fuel-efficient car, cut car usage or taken fewer flights.

Contradictory responses also came through in a question on satisfaction with lifestyle, with nearly half replying they were doing enough to help the environment and only 40 percent prepared to do a bit more.

A separate consumer survey found people over 50 -- among the most climate-aware and affluent group -- were deeply suspicious of any government move to raise green taxes, viewing it as a money-making mechanism.

People between 16 and 29, especially men, were most likely to say the environment was a low priority for them. They offered a range of reasons for not changing their lifestyles.

The survey by Millennium, an agency specialising in marketing to the mature, found 84 percent believed the government was capitalising on climate fears to raise funds and also found little willingness among respondents to change lifestyles much -- if at all -- to benefit the environment.

“Our research clearly shows ... the overriding sense of cynicism with which they approach those attempting to jump on the ‘eco-friendly’ bandwagon,” said Millennium managing director Fiona Hought.

The DEFRA survey found there was an overriding sense of guilt about the environment. The most popular corresponding actions tended to be recycling, giving old clothes to charity shops or changing light bulbs.

“The most encouraging finding in this survey is the majority of people believing that it’s up to individuals to accept responsibility by making lifestyle changes,” said Ruddock.

“This is vitally important as 40 percent of climate change emissions come from our actions as individuals.”

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