An analysis of the British public’s concerns regarding climate change legislation

Woods, R., Fernandez, A. and Coen, S. (2009) An analysis of the British public’s concerns regarding climate change legislation. The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, 1 (3). pp. 75-92. ISSN 1835-7156.

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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 commentators 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.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Climate change; public opinion; government; legislation; scepticism
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: pre Nov-2014 > Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > Applied Social Sciences
Depositing User: Dr Ana Fernandez
Date Deposited: 13 Feb 2015 12:29
Last Modified: 13 Feb 2015 12:29

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00