Toxic Heat: 13m Brits say climate change a serious global threat ‘out of control’

Wildfires in the region of Palermo in Sicily  (AP)
Wildfires in the region of Palermo in Sicily (AP)

Millions of Britons fear that climate change is now a serious global threat which has spiralled out of control, a new poll revealed on Thursday.

The Ipsos survey for The Standard showed one in four adults in the country, or nearly 13 million, hold this bleak view as destructive wild fires rage in southern Europe and north Africa, violent downpours flooded Berlin, a super typhoon hit the Philippines, and cacti collapsed in Arizona where Phoenix has boiled in temperatures above 43 degrees C for nearly a month.

A further 52 per cent believe that climate change is a serious global threat but that there is still time to deal with it.

Scientists say the suffocating heatwaves blighting Europe and parts of America would have been “virtually impossible” without human-induced climate change.

They are also warning that the world is running out of time to stop a catastrophic rise in temperatures, of two degrees above pre-industrial levels, with some seas now heating up at an alarming rate.

The extreme weather has blown holes in arguments made by climate change deniers, with very high temperatures in Greece, Portugal and Italy, as well as parts of the US.

The poll found that less than one in ten (nine per cent) now think that climate change is a global threat but not one of the most serious.

Five per cent say it is not a very serious global threat, and seven per cent not a global threat at all.

A stagnant atmosphere, warmed by carbon dioxide and other gases, made the European heat wave 2.5 degrees Celsius hotter, the one in the US and Mexico 3.6 two degrees Celsius warmer and one in China one degree Celsius toastier, according to researchers at World Weather Attribution.

The Ipsos survey showed that nearly half of adults in Britain, 47 per cent, blame the recent hot weather in parts of Europe partly on climate change due to human activity and partly on natural weather processes.

Just over a third, 35 per cent, say it is being mainly caused by climate change as a result of human activity.

While 16 per cent put it down to being mainly caused by natural weather processes.

Gideon Skinner, Head of Political Research at Ipsos UK, said: “It may not be quite as high up the public’s agenda as the cost of living or the NHS, but this data shows that most Britons are still worried about the threat climate change poses to the world.

“Concern is shared across all ages, and among 2019 voters of all parties - although more intensely among Labour than Conservative ones.”

He added: “People on balance believe the costs of inaction will outweigh the costs of measures to reduce climate change, and are looking for action from government as well as individuals and businesses.

“However at the moment they don’t think Rishi Sunak’s government is doing a very good job on it - although there isn’t a lot of confidence that a Labour government would do a better job either.”

Climate change experts are warning that last year’s hot, dry summer that saw 40C temperatures recorded in the UK for the first time ever with wildfires, including in London, was a “sign of things to come”.

Met Office records dating back to 1884 put 2022 as the hottest year in the UK and it warned that as long as people continue to emit greenhouse gases unchecked the Earth will continue to heat up.

Professor Liz Bentley, chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society, said: “If you look at future climate projections, we are on a path to go for hotter, drier summers.”

However, the Government and Labour are now believed to be considering scaling back on green commitments, possibly spooked by the voter backlash, in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election, against the extension of the Ultra Low Emission Zone to Outer London.

The Met Office report, which tracks the progress of the UK’s changing climate each year, noted that temperatures are rising above 36C more frequently than in the past.

Between 1961-1990 the highest temperature recorded was 31.3C; between 1991-2020 it was 33.5C; between 2013-2022 it was 35.7C and in 2022 it was 40.3C.

Just over three quarters of adults, 77 per cent, say they are concerned about climate change, slightly down on the 84 per cent last July when Britain was hit by a heatwave.

Forty-one per cent say they are “very concerned” and 36 per cent “fairly concerned”.

Two thirds say Britain is starting to feel the effects of climate change, again down from the 72 per cent a year ago when the country was sweltering in the heat.

Six in ten say the current Government has done a bad job in dealing with global warming, up four points on July 2022, with 26 per cent taking the opposite view.

While 28 per cent say Labour would do a better job addressing climate change, 15 per cent a worse one, and 48 per cent “about the same”.

* Ipsos interviewed 1,065 adults in Britain by phone between July 19 and 23. Data are weighted.