Uncertain climate: An investigation into public scepticism about anthropogenic climate change

Wouter Poortinga, Alexa Spence, Lorraine Whitmarsh, Stuart Capstick, Nick F. Pidgeon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

321 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study presents a detailed investigation of public scepticism about climate change in Britain using the trend, attribution, and impact scepticism framework of Rahmstorf (2004). The study found that climate scepticism is currently not widespread in Britain. Although uncertainty and scepticism about the potential impacts of climate change were fairly common, both trend and attribution scepticism were far less prevalent. It further showed that the different types of scepticism are strongly interrelated. Although this may suggest that the general public does not clearly distinguish between the different aspects of the climate debate, there is a clear gradation in prevalence along the Rahmstorf typology. Climate scepticism appeared particularly common among older individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds who are politically conservative and hold traditional values; while it is less common among younger individuals from higher socio-economic backgrounds who hold self-transcendence and environmental values. The finding that climate scepticism is rooted in people's core values and worldviews may imply a coherent and encompassing sceptical outlook on climate change. However, attitudinal certainty appeared mainly concentrated in non-sceptical groups, suggesting that climate sceptical views are not held very firmly. Implications of the findings for climate change communication and engagement are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1015-1024
Number of pages10
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Volume21
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2011

Keywords

  • Ambivalence
  • Climate change
  • Public attitudes
  • Scepticism
  • Uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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