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Climate: Public understanding and policy implications

28 February 2013

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".

Terms of reference

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? 

Submitting written evidence

As part of a scheme to encourage paperless working and maximise efficiency, the Committee is piloting a new web portal for online submission of written evidence.

Written submissions for this inquiry should therefore be sent via the link at the top of the inquiry page.

The Committee invites written submissions on these issues by midday on Monday 22 April 2013.

Each submission should:

  1. be no more than 3,000 words in length 
  2. be in Word format with as little use of colour or logos as possible 
  3. have numbered paragraphs 
  4. include a declaration of interests.

If you need to send a paper copy please send it to:

The Clerk
Science and Technology Committee
House of Commons
7 Millbank
London SW1P 3JA

Please note that:

  • Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included.
  • Memoranda submitted must be kept confidential until published by the Committee, unless publication by the person or organisation submitting it is specifically authorised. 
  • Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), by printing it or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.
  • Select Committees are unable to investigate individual cases.

More information on submitting evidence to Select Committees

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