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« Deben in Veolia mode again | Main | Gloom and doom »
Thursday
Feb282013

SciTech committee looks at public attitudes

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has just launched a new inquiry:

In July 2011, the Foresight programme’s report into the International Dimensions of Climate Change stated:

Recent polling suggests that scepticism about climate change has increased, alongside diminished concern for its effects. In 2006, 81% of surveyed UK citizens were fairly or very concerns about climate change compared with 76% in 2009 in an identical tracking survey.

Foresight cautions that “should scepticism continue to increase, democratic governments are likely to find it harder to convince voters to support costly environmental policies aimed at mitigation of, or adaptation to, climate change.”

The Science and Technology Select Committee considered issues of public trust and risk communication in its report “Devil’s bargain? Energy risks and the public” earlier this year. The Committee concluded that “more could be done to improve risk communication of scientific matters in the media”.

The Committee has agreed to hold an inquiry into what the public understand about climate, where people look for their information and how that may impact climate change policy and seeks written submissions on the following matters:

  • What is the current state of public understanding of what is meant by climate change? How has this changed in recent years?
  • Which voices are trusted in public discourse on climate science and policy? What role should Government Departments, scientific advisers to Government and publicly funded scientists have in communicating climate science?
  • How could public understanding of what is meant by climate change be improved? What are the main barriers to this? Does the media have a positive role to play?
  • How important is public understanding in developing effective climate change policy?
  • What evidence is there that public attitude to climate science affects their engagement with energy policies or initiatives?
  • Does the Government have sufficient expertise in social and behavioural sciences to understand the relationship between public understanding of climate science and the feasibility of relevant public policies?
  • Can lessons about public engagement with climate change policy be learned from other countries?

Details on how to submit evidence here.

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Reader Comments (59)

I think they should have an inquiry to look into politicians and public institutions attitude to climate change.

Perhaps look into how much they are being influenced and coerced by a well funded and coordinated "Big Green" self interest groups.

Feb 28, 2013 at 3:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

The third paragraph 'foresight' ends up myopic, blinded by a blow from the gloved iron fist.
================

Feb 28, 2013 at 3:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

The whole exercise is flawed.

They proceed from the assumption that CAGW is true, deadly and happening now. This leads to the second assumption – that rising skepticism must be because people are ignorant, ill-informed or deniers. The third assumption then follows (as it always does with authoritarians) that what is needed is re-education.

Feb 28, 2013 at 4:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee would be better off scrutinising the quality of the climate science and the facts involved in their decision making. If they did that, it would make it easier to understand why their message is not getting across.

The series of questions asked in their inquiry look more like an attempt at improving their propaganda campaign, rather than asking whether their position is correct. The Committee should ideally not waste its time with such PR and spin, but ought to be investigating the true position of AGW. However, given the way that our MP's are in thrall to green hype, that is unlikely.

Feb 28, 2013 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterEdward Bancroft

now would that be 'climate change' man-made or 'climate change' natural.or a mix.

gov defines it to means only agw

"Climate Change
The process of changing weather patterns caused by the increased number of greenhouse gases in the global atmosphere as a result of human activity since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

’A guide to carbon offsetting for the public sector’ – Department of Energy and Climate Change"

http://unsettledclimate.org/2010/11/19/crazy-climate-change-quote/

Feb 28, 2013 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Changing CAGW and AGW to Climate Change was the best move they ever made.
It allows them to include any kind of climate change as part of the "Problem" that needs fixing by reducing our power use, going "green" and increasing our taxes.
They are anything but a Science and Technology Committee, just a propaganda machine.

Feb 28, 2013 at 4:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterA C Osborn

"The Committee has agreed to hold an inquiry into what the public understand about climate ........., "

It would be better if they first held an inquiry into "What scientists understand about climate."

Feb 28, 2013 at 4:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Barry Woods (4:14 PM) - From Roger Pielke Sr. (Sept 14, 2012):

It is interesting to note that the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (IPCC, 2012) has recently redefined climate change as

“A change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g., by using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. Climate change may be due to natural internal processes or external forcings, or to persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use”.

This is different from the previous definition. IPCC states

“This definition differs from that in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where climate change is defined as: “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability.”

Feb 28, 2013 at 4:40 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

These people are dangerously warped, and living in some Orwellian fantasy:

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever."

But it will be all right, everything will be all right, the struggle will soon be finished. We will win the victory over ourselves. We will love climate change.

Feb 28, 2013 at 4:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

Why or how is this the business of the state? They are discussing taking steps to correct the public's beliefs? In a free society, the state can provide educational resources but cannot shape those resources for the purpose of creating a particular set of beliefs or habits. I think Britain is far from a free state.

Feb 28, 2013 at 5:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

HaroldW a definition so wide you can fly a jumbo through it sideways , that is going to be very 'useful' for them , but has normal it is nothing to do with science.

Feb 28, 2013 at 5:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Good grief, what a daft collection of questions.
I wonder if it will occur to them to ask people who are sceptical about climate change, 'why are you sceptical about climate change?' Apparently not.

Feb 28, 2013 at 5:03 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

“A change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g., by using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. Climate change may be due to natural internal processes or external forcings, or to persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use”.


Feb 28, 2013 at 4:40 PM HaroldW

Ah.....I see - so they can bully, harass, tax, starve, freeze us and steal from us forever - even if the climate changes for entirely benign, natural reasons.

It's a bit like going back to pre - Magna Carta England - where the barons could steal your food, tax you blind, screw your womenfolk and lop bits of your anatomy off if you dared complain.

Have they ever read Kipling I wonder:-

And still when mob or Monarch lays
Too rude a hand on English ways,
The whisper wakes, the shudder plays,
Across the reeds at Runnymede.
And Thames, that knows the moods of kings,
And crowds and priests and suchlike things,
Rolls deep and dreadful as he brings
Their warning down from Runnymede!

Feb 28, 2013 at 5:08 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

"Does the Government have sufficient expertise in social and behavioural sciences to understand the relationship between public understanding of climate science and the feasibility of relevant public"

Translation:

"We need more quacks and brainwashers. Can someone call Dr. Lewandowsky?"

Feb 28, 2013 at 5:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

The good news is that Graham Stringer is on the committee.

Feb 28, 2013 at 5:22 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

The bad news is that Graham Stringer's contribution to the work of the committee is ignored by the technically illiterate members of the committee.

Feb 28, 2013 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Who are they looking to give evidence here? The subject is public attitudes, but it isn't framed as if they want inputs from your actual public - just inputs on how else they can communicate their rigid views and policies to us.

Feb 28, 2013 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered Commentermiket

As they "seek written submissions", perhaps we should send them some. Preferably, too many to ignore.

Feb 28, 2013 at 5:49 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Unfortunately it also has David Tredinnick as a member , sometimes referred to as the Member for Holland & Barratt, who has some unorthodox views about science and the scientific method

http://skeptical-voter.org/wiki/index.php?title=David_Tredinnick

In a speech, in 2001, he told MPs: ‘science has worked out that pregnancy, hangovers and visits to one’s GP may be affected by the awesome power of the moon’, to which in 2009 he added that phases of the moon influence the number of accidents, and blood clotting.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200001/cmhansrd/vo010124/halltext/10124h02.htm

Feb 28, 2013 at 5:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterArthur Dent

Interesting that all this seems to have been stimulated by the Foresight Programme's "International Dimensions of Climate Change" report.

The programme is headed by our dearly loved Sir John Beddington - and one of the four "Lead Experts" advising on the report was one Dr Richard Betts.

http://www.bis.gov.uk/foresight/our-work/projects/published-projects/international-dimensions-of-climate-change/lead-expert

Personally, I think this initiative bears the hallmark of the "climate psychology" lobby - who seem quite active at the moment.

http://www.climatepsychologyalliance.org/

Feb 28, 2013 at 5:50 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

I would like to think that if the "Climate Change Act" had come before parliament in 2010 (ie. after 'Climategate') a lot more wise heads might have woken up and opposed its rubber-stamp passage through, and that they would not now be forced to seek ways to defend the indefensible.

There again, I've long been considered an incurable old romantic - no doubt most votes were bought and paid for in return for other favours.

Feb 28, 2013 at 5:53 PM | Registered CommentermikemUK

Stuck-record highlights a critical point, one that has consistently amazed me: to wit, that in government circles there can be no doubt not only that global warming is real but that its impacts will be properly devastating.

This speaks volumes about the way that those in government are not merely shielded, deliberately I'd say, from all/any evidence pointing out the obvious flaws in the CAGW position but, more bafflingly still, about their odd reluctance even to acknowledge, let alone try to understand, these objections.

I suppose we can all accept that politicians today exist in their own self-important bubble. But the disconnect from reality they consistently display, the failure to ask even the most basic questions while still proposing to hand over (for which more properly read squander) billions upon billions of public money to counter a threat they self-evidently know nothing about without making even the most basic attempt to ask if this is money well spent, is staggering, a kind of economic death wish inflicted on us all by the seriously ignorant posing as the bettle-browed, concerned, 'progressive' guardians of the future.

They are in the process of ripping up several hundreds years of history – of human progress, of human advancement, of what once might have thought unimaginable advances in well-being – in the interests of precisely nothing that they understand.

Am I alone in finding this frightening?

Feb 28, 2013 at 6:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterAgouts

@ theo goodwin, 5 p.m.

"Why or how is this the business of the state? They are discussing taking steps to correct the public's beliefs? In a free society, the state can provide educational resources but cannot shape those resources for the purpose of creating a particular set of beliefs or habits. I think Britain is far from a free state."

I think a quote from the esteemed Dr.Goebbels is relevant;

“It is the absolute right of the State to supervise the formation of public opinion.”

and for a bonus

“Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.”

If he'd been working for us, he would have had a knighthood at least.

Feb 28, 2013 at 6:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterpalantir

I presume your Bishness is preparing evidence to be submitted, or have you decided that head -> brick wall is best avoided.

Parliament (and all politics) needs a clearout...

Feb 28, 2013 at 6:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterMorph

The Science and Technology Committee do not seem to have proof read their report properly. In the quotation from their report below I have put the incorrect words in bold to make the mistakes more obvious.

The Committee has agreed to hold an inquiry into what the public understand about climate, where people look for their information and how that may impact climate change policy and seeks written submissions on the following matters:

The passage above was obviously really intended to read as indicated below, wasn't it?

The Committee has agreed to hold an inquiry into what climate scientists understand about climate, where climate scientists look for their information and how that may impact climate change policy and seeks written submissions on the following matters:

Feb 28, 2013 at 6:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

What is meant by 'climate change'?

Is it:

a. what I want it to mean
b. the new religion
c. one of HL Mencken's imaginary hobgoblins to keep the populace alarmed
d. something that happens all the time and has done throughtout recorded history

Feb 28, 2013 at 7:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Well, I submitted a short piece in my usual style but dumbed down. I am in no expectation of it being understood any more than if I wrote it in Sanskrit.

Feb 28, 2013 at 7:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

With world average temperatures continuing to flatline and some recognition by warmists that climate models were not as robust as they had thought, there was much self-congratulatory back slapping on this site a few months ago and a claim that "we have won". But the risible linking of extreme events to "climate change" seems to have given the AGW crowd renewed momentum. This mendacious attribution seems to be becoming more frequent - just like extreme events!

Hence the attitude of the UK Science and Technology Committee and this embedded "thinking" is sadly, all too common in other countries. I despair that it will be decades before this is completely flushed from political and social discourse.

Feb 28, 2013 at 7:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterpotentilla

Were it in Sanskrit it would be as likely to be absorbed.
=================

Feb 28, 2013 at 7:24 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

What is the best way of saying:

1 - I've done some of the maths
2 - It isn't difficult
3 - It conclusively shows that this is an imaginary scare manufactured by activists

QED
?

Feb 28, 2013 at 7:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Heh, r; I thought I had a corollary but it looks more like call and response.
=====

Feb 28, 2013 at 7:27 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

HaroldW quoting R. Pielke sr. and the IPCC: "Climate change may be due to natural internal processes or external forcings, or to persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use.”

Or all of the above.

It's good to see they are recognizing other possibilities.

Feb 28, 2013 at 7:28 PM | Unregistered Commentertheduke

Sounds a bit like they are panicking. "Make them believe. Make them believe! Before they vote us out!"

Feb 28, 2013 at 7:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterA.D. Everard

Rhoda
Why so quick? We’ve got till the end of April. A lot of people saying “It’s not happening, you’re wasting your time” will just go to confirm the views of all the government subsidised social scientists who will be submitting evidence about how we sceptics are just a bunch of highly organised deluded conspirators who have a stranglehold on the media.
I’ll be submitting evidence, playing on my experience doing opinion research for government departments a long time ago, and what I’ve learned from my interactions with Adam Corner and John Cook. I’ll be using information I’ve picked up here, like the invaluable quotes by Barry Woods and HaroldW above. I’d be interested in hearing from anyone with statistical expertise who would be interested in a joint effort.

Feb 28, 2013 at 8:03 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Geoff, I expect others to do it properly, I only planned to add to the volume of stuff coming in. We will be up against all manner of NGO troughers, we need more than a few authoritative items of evidence, we need to give the appearance of numbers too.

But we are all wasting our time unless the powers have seen the tide on the turn by themselves, that is how it is, you will never change anybody's mind with a logical sequence of argument.

Feb 28, 2013 at 8:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

"In 2006, 81% of surveyed UK citizens were fairly or very concerns about climate change compared with 76% in 2009 in an identical tracking survey."


I applied sophisticated modelling techniques, at least as robust as anything produced by the Met Office, with the following resulting projection:

Year "% fairly or very concerns about climate change"
2006 81%
2009 76%

2012 71%
2015 66%
2018 61%
2021 56%
2024 51%
2027 46%
2030 41%
2033 36%
2036 31%
2039 26%
2042 21%
2045 16%
2048 11%
2051 6%
2054 1%

Feb 28, 2013 at 8:51 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Stuck record:

The whole exercise is flawed.

They proceed from the assumption that CAGW is true, deadly and happening now. This leads to the second assumption – that rising skepticism must be because people are ignorant, ill-informed or deniers. The third assumption then follows (as it always does with authoritarians) that what is needed is re-education.

Indeed and well said.

There is no room for misbehaviour.

This is what ideological tyranny is, politics in the UK is dead - the machine is now fully functioning.
There is no room for discourse - either you believe and conform, or else you are a heretic, denier, racist, little Englander - and pretty soon, realists - we will be named TERRORISTS. Or deemed to be a social outcast, accused and fitted up - of some sort of sexual offence and or deviance.

It's OK to be of the new religion of course and common purpose will show you the way..........

Dave, is only an interim leader - fortunately he is a statist and fell in with the Lib dems!

At last and soon, the postal vote will ensure that the true believers [Miliband's communists] will be returned at the next general election - which will be the final such national plebiscite.

Feb 28, 2013 at 9:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

If climate change scepticism during the last decade could be plotted on a yearly basis, would the graph look anything like a hockey stick?

Feb 28, 2013 at 9:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterYorkie

Martin A +1 (did you employ a vast supercomputer?)

According to the generalized 'conservation of popular guilt and fear' theorem something will emerge to replace CAGW. Wouldn't it be nice if this was a societal fear of sponging off others on false pretenses while pretending to be a scientist?

Feb 28, 2013 at 9:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

One of the issues that has concerned me for awhile is how does the UK Government carry out its responsibilities with regard to due diligence on this subject?

When the IPCC AR5 report is produced who do HMG and its officers turn to for the necessary objective due diligence? The obvious candidates being the MO, CRU, Exeter etc. But those organisations are all involved in compiling the report in the first place and therefore cannot, should not, be involved . So how do our representatives carry out their responsibilities? I suppose they could ask a few of the inmates from the Carlton House Terrace Nursing home, they wouldn't take anybodies word for it:-)

Feb 28, 2013 at 9:28 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Rhoda
I’ll buy that.

Martin A
That’s the robustest bit of climate social science I’ve seen for a long time.
I’ve been looking at the globescan international survey on attitudes to the environment at
http://www.globescan.com/commentary-and-analysis/press-releases/press-releases-2013/261-environmental-concerns-at-record-lows-global-poll.html
which is getting lot of publicity now.
They make a big deal out of the fact that environmental concern has fallen from its 2009 highs (funny how no trend in global temperature counts unless it lasts 50 years, while every year-to-year blip in public attitudes is considered significant) and that concern about climate change has fallen right back to where it was from 1992 to 2003.
It’s still huge, however. A 50% score of “very serious” on what is presumably a five point scale would be considered significant for most questions, but the survey company are worried that its down from its 2009 high of just over 60%. The fact that half the population are not seriously worried is seriously worrying, apparently, especially as the survey was conducted in August, which everybody knows is the best time to ask people if they’re worried about global warming.

Feb 28, 2013 at 9:29 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Climate changes. It always has and it always will. How can anyone decide what an 'optimum' climate is?
There isn't one. Get used to it.
No matter what tiny extra percentage of the allegedly 'poisonous' CO2 we have added to the atmosphere (for which the global flora thanks us) how much has the mythical 'global temperature' changed? Not one jot for almost twenty years.

Feb 28, 2013 at 9:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterStephen Brown

Well i was going to submit a written answer to the committee but i don't know enough one syllable words

Feb 28, 2013 at 9:42 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave38

Not all reports of the recently published survey of international attitudes to the environment bothered to graph changes over time. One that did was the Daily Mail's here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2285812/Most-people-longer-consider-global-warming-issue-financial-crisis-changes-priorities.html. But the graph is an eye-opener.

The real story is not that concern has been weakening, but that it has now dropped significantly below 1992 levels, and is at an historic all time low.

Feb 28, 2013 at 10:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterLuther Bl't

Like geoff I would say dont rush it. Pause and think carefully about what if anything you want to say. Try not to come across as a nutter in their eyes.
If I were to write someyhing now, my response to each of the questions would be:
"WTF are you talking about? You are asking completely the wrong questions and obviously have no idea of the issues involved". Which I would regret later!

Feb 28, 2013 at 10:57 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Yup, Martin A, you beat me to it. Why would they bother to ask anybody about these things when they could get a (more expensive) computer model to tell them what to think?

Humans, particularly electors, have a nasty habit of giving the wrong answer.

Mar 1, 2013 at 1:30 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

I agree with Paul. There is no need to rush a response. A considered and carefully worded reply, spelling out one's expertise (if any) is required. Not that it won't be ignored or dismissed out of hand - but I'm an old cynic and have done too many of these things.

Mar 1, 2013 at 7:28 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Sounds like an opportunity for more 'research' to me...

Mar 1, 2013 at 8:27 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Damn, edjucation ain't workin.

Mar 1, 2013 at 8:41 AM | Unregistered Commenterceetee

Luther Bl’t
That’s the graph of the survey I was talking about. Country by country data don’t seem to be available.
The fact that changes in level of concern about water shortage,air pollution, climate change etc. mirror each other shows that people are not really thinking about the issues, but simply parroting the ideas that are in the air. I just don’t believe that 50% of Turks are seriously worried about loss of biodiversity.

Mar 1, 2013 at 8:56 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

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