Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The opinion polls aren't settled either

The BBC is trumpeting the results of a poll it commissioned, which, it claims, shows that "most people are ready to make personal sacrifices to address climate change". Its report on the poll says:

Four out of five people indicated they were prepared to change their lifestyle – even in the US and China, the world's two biggest emitters of carbon dioxide.


BBC environment reporter Matt McGrath says the poll suggests that in many countries people are more willing than their governments to contemplate serious changes to their lifestyles to combat global warming.

22,000 people in 21 countries were interviewed for the poll, and the figures given for the UK respondents were fairly representative of those for all countries, with more than 80 per cent agreeing that lifestyle changes were 'probably' or 'definitely' necessary.

Strange, then, that a separate poll conducted in Britain and reported on by Reuters a couple of days earlier produced very different findings:

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.


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.

This doesn't quite square with "most people are ready to make personal sacrifices" does it? And here's a third poll on the same subject, reported in the same Reuters story:

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.


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.

Not only does the BBC's poll contradict two others taken at around the same time with regard to attitudes to 'climate change' in the UK, it also suggests there's been a dramatic change in opinion since the BBC reported on another independent poll back in July:

The public believes the effects of global warming on the climate are not as bad as politicians and scientists claim, a poll has suggested.


There was a feeling the problem was exaggerated to make money, it found.

But hang on a minute – here's yet another poll, which the BBC reported on in September, and which seems much more in tune with the findings of the BBC-commissioned poll we kicked off with – and funnily enough, it was also commissioned by the BBC:

Large majorities in many countries now believe human activity is causing global warming, a BBC World Service poll suggests.


An average of 79% of respondents to the BBC survey agreed that "human activity, including industry and transportation, is a significant cause of climate change".

Nine out of 10 people said action was necessary, with two-thirds of people going further, saying "it is necessary to take major steps starting very soon".

Again, while people in various countries were interviewed for this poll, the results for the British respondents were about par for the course.

In case you're becoming confused – I know I am – here's a quick recap: we have three independent polls suggesting that Britons are either ambivalent or skeptical about whether climate change is a real problem, and highly skeptical about the motives of those who demand action; and we have two polls commissioned by the BBC which suggest that Britons, along with the rest of the world, are not only fully on board with the threat of climate change, but are prepared to endure tough measures to tackle the problem.

Both BBC polls were conducted by GlobeScan and PIPA, The Program on International Policy Issues. And lest anyone be thinking that these must be independent organisations, with no axe to grind and no vested interest in the outcome of the polls they conduct, here's GlobeScan President Doug Miller commenting on the BBC's September poll:

…Miller said growing awareness of global warming had awoken people's self-interest.

"The impacts of erratic weather on their property, on their person, on their country is tangible and real to people across the world."

He said "the strength of the findings makes it difficult to imagine a more supportive public opinion environment for national leaders to commit to climate action".

Note that Miller isn't commenting on the findings of the poll, as a spokesman for Mori might, but is giving his personal opinion on the subject, making it clear that he regards global warming and its consequences as a given.

The 'Core Practice Areas' listed on GlobeScan's website include Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Community Affairs, and the site features a photo of the Earth taken from space. I think we get the message.

As for PIPA, the list of 'Recent Studies' displayed on its website tells you everything you need to know: when it's not producing anti-American, anti-war or pro-climate hysteria polls for the BBC, it's producing reports such as 'Less than Half of Pakistani Public Supports Attacking Al Qaeda, Cracking Down on Fundamentalists' (in collaboration with the US Institute of Peace), and 'Muslims Believe US Seeks to Undermine Islam'.

Far from employing politically neutral organisations to carry out its polls, the BBC is working with two groups which entirely share its soft-left, but potentially very dangerous, view of the world and its ills. Pollsters are, of course, masters in the art of manipulating both their subjects and their data to get the results they want – and in the unlikely event that the BBC doesn't get the results it wants, it's a master of twisting the facts to suit the narrative: witness the poll it commissioned which purported to show that most Iraqis thought the Surge had failed, the findings of which were released to coincide with the Petraeus/Crocker testimony to Congress.

It's possible that the findings of the BBC's polls are accurate, and that the independent polls mentioned above, along with others, are flawed, but it's a remarkable coincidence that the BBC is able to produce poll after poll which suggests that the whole world thinks exactly what its news reports tell them they should think. And if the whole world agrees with you, then you can't really be accused of being biased can you?


Anonymous said...

First off man is not causing climate change. The forces that have changed the climate for the past several million years are still still causing climate change. Nothing man can do will stop it. Even if man could stop it there is doubt that they should. Because if the earth isn't warming it is cooling. Living on a cold planet is much harder than living on a warm planet. One thing that is certain from history is that the earths temperature has never just stayed the same for any length of time. So man has to accept the fact the man can not control the weather and just has to adapt.

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 11/07/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

Anonymous said...

Hi good post and a polite reqest, would you please stop using the term climate change it ruins my street cred as a global warming denier. Look, climate change has been continuous since the big bang, we cannot do anything about it , its what climate does. None of my holidays in England have ever been ruined by global warming but climate change has threatend every summer holiday since I was born in 1941, my mother told me about the first few years and climate change was down to the war,bloody Hitler had a lot more to answer to than a few million dead soldiers. Then when I grew old enough to make my own mistakes I knew it was the bloody A bomb ruining my summer hols. In the eighties we started thought evaporation on clouds now thats what really causes all the trouble, bloody thinking!

Anonymous said...

Robert G I stopped listening after your first sentence. Nobody know's for sure either way. They just think they do.

Climate change may or may not be accelerated by humans, I suspect it may be.

However, we need to work on the hypothesis that it is. That's what the smart human would do.

This guy explains it in a clear format. Ignore the sensational title of the video!