In Depth

Climate change could end human race, say majority of Brits

Poll follows high-profile protests by activists which thrust global warming onto the political agenda

The majority of people in the UK believe climate change could end the human race, a new poll has found, suggesting mass protests aimed at thrusting global warming onto the political agenda have captured the public’s attention.

Extinction Rebellion brought parts of London to a standstill with 11 days of protest last month, setting up camps that blocked off some of the capital’s busiest roads and bridges. They also targeted major institutions such as Goldman Sachs, Shell and the London Stock Exchange.

A Comres poll taken after the protests found that 54% of adults agreed that climate-change threatens our extinction as a species, and a quarter who disagreed. A majority of those surveyed also said that they would forego at least one overseas trip a year for the sake of the climate, and more people said they would be willing to protest about climate change than higher fuel prices.

Those pledges may well be tested: a separate report, published this morning by the Climate Change Committee, is urging the UK to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.

Chris Stark, who wrote the report, told the BBC that Extinction Rebellion - and David Attenborough’s climate-change documentary - have helped change minds.

“This report would have been absolutely inconceivable just a few years ago,” he said. “People would have laughed us out of court for suggesting that the target could be so high.”

Political climate change

Britain’s biggest civil disobedience protests for generations have coincided with a growing youth movement, which has seen millions of schoolchildren around the world take to the streets to voice their growing alarm.

John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace UK, told The Guardian the debate around environmentalism had been fundamentally altered by the protests.

“Climate activists, young and old, have put the UK government under enormous pressure to officially recognise the climate emergency we are facing,” he said. “There is a real feeling of hope in the air that after several decades of climate campaigning the message is beginning to sink in. What we need now is to translate that feeling into action.”

As a direct result of the protests, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn put forward a motion in parliament on Wednesday calling on the government to declare an environment and climate emergency.

“Extinction Rebellion has changed the paradigm of climate protests” says Quartz.

April set a new record for the number of times “climate change” was mentioned in the UK press, beating the previous record set in December 2015, when the Paris climate agreement was signed. Google searches for “climate change” in the UK have also spiked to levels unseen since 2009.

While acknowledging the protests came during a breather from Brexit, Leo Barasi, a communications expert who advises organisations that work on climate action, said that the tenor of debate on climate action has changed in the UK - and probably around the world.

“Climate-change deniers have been pushed to the fringes and don’t receive as much attention as in the past,” says Quartz. “More importantly, the facts supporting climate action are becoming harder to ignore”.

Recommended

What will Sue Gray’s report reveal?
Boris Johnson
Today’s big question

What will Sue Gray’s report reveal?

When will the Elizabeth line open?
The Elizabeth line entrance at Liverpool Street station in London
In Focus

When will the Elizabeth line open?

Caroline Watt: where is Rebekah Vardy’s missing agent?
Rebekah Vardy arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice
Profile

Caroline Watt: where is Rebekah Vardy’s missing agent?

The mystery of the sanction-busting plane
Grant Shapps
Why we’re talking about . . .

The mystery of the sanction-busting plane

Popular articles

The mysterious Russian oligarch deaths
Vladimir Putin has previously deployed ‘extreme measures’ to crush opposition
Why we’re talking about . . .

The mysterious Russian oligarch deaths

Is Vladimir Putin seriously ill?
Vladimir Putin
Why we’re talking about . . .

Is Vladimir Putin seriously ill?

Depp v. Heard: what the latest battle has revealed
Amber Heard
In Depth

Depp v. Heard: what the latest battle has revealed

The Week Footer Banner