Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Good News: UK Still Pessimistic and Cynical!

The HSBC Climate Confidence Survey results were released today. At a global level, the results make for some nice spin and all round optimisim. The survey, organised via HSBC's Climate Partnership, sought to understand attitudes and commitment towards action on tackling climate change in a number of developing and developed countries. In summary: those in developing nations are optmisitic and engaged, while those in developing countRies are fatalistic and disengaged:

"Climate change is having a significant impact on public opinion in the developing countries surveyed. Around 60 percent of respondents registered a high level of concern in China, India, Mexico and Brazil, compared with only 22 per cent in the UK and 26 per cent in Germany; and" (from HSBC, here)

In the UK, fatalism really doesn't just reign, it pours. The Country Profile for the UK tells a sorry tale:

"The HSBC Climate Confidence Index 2007 shows the UK as the least engaged of any of the economies surveyed. People in the UK have the lowest level of concern, the lowest confidence in what is being done today to address the issue, the lowest level of personal commitment, and nearly the lowest optimism about the outcome. A fatalistic view is prevalent, with significant 'green rejection', especially in younger age groups." (HSBC, emphasis mine)

On face value this sounds terrible and I'm sure that some of what the HSBC survey data reveals is indeed bad news. The fact that UK citizens have the lowest level of concern about climate change is particularly worrying and as a percentage, half of the global average (in terms of %age repsondents recording a high level concern over climate change). Ranked above climate change are 'Terrorism' and 'Children's Future' as high level concerns for UK respondents.

There is a sad irony then, not enough of us are making the links between climatic change and a rise in terrorism, conflict and a potential decline in the security of our children's wellbeing. On a personal level, I'm surprised that respondents are worried about terrorism - I really hadn't realised that so many people would feel this way. The National Security Strategy sets a tone I suppose: Terrorism first, potential causes second:

"The Cold War threat has been replaced by a diverse but interconnected set of threats and risks, which affect the United Kingdom directly and also have the potential to undermine wider international stability. They include international terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, conflicts and failed states, pandemics, and trans-national crime. These and other threats and risks are driven by a diverse and interconnected set of underlying factors, including climate change, competition for energy, poverty and poor governance, demographic changes and globalisation."

On the positive side of the HSBC report, I wondered whether all of this good old fashioned British pessimism and fatalism was born out of the fact that the public are well informed - that they understand the situation we are in and are understandably worried that we may not be able to address the issues sufficiently well.

Sadly, something worse seems to be at play - the product of a dis-informed society, we seem to have settled on a rainbow fatalism. Over 10% of the UK respondents think we should 'adapt to climate change, not try to stop it from happening', 9% think it's 'impossible to stop', 7% 'the earth will self-regulate (sic)', 3% 'it's not our role' and scientists will find a technological solution..'.

Meanwhile the young repsondents are spitting poision - with quotes suggesting a widespread view of climate change as a government led conspiracy. (if only!).

It seems we're not under-informed, this survey tells me that people are baffled, that there is a failure of trust and a subsequent failure of faith. Oh, to live in China, where most people are optimistic and trusting of their government in leading them from climatic disaster. If we can just get the Olympics right, who knows what will happen...

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