Drastic shift in UK public’s attitude towards climate change

Nearly half of British adults are “very concerned” about climate change, according to the latest government data. Extinction Rebellion activist, Suzanne Savage, says that “global events have shown that we are facing an increasingly dire emergency” and that people are starting to wake up.

What the data shows

In 2012 “very concerned” was the least popular position, representing just one in five people, now it’s the most common stance. The change started in 2017 and then jumped up in 2021.

The 35% of people “not concerned” about climate change has dwindled down to a tenth of the population.

In the latest survey people were asked if they think climate change has already had an impact: 60% think it’s already having an impact in the UK, 31% think it will have an effect, 2% don’t think it ever will and 7% don’t know.


The new data, released 17 December 2021, from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy is the latest instalment in their Attitudes Tracker: a questionnaire designed to gauge the publics’ feelings on a number of related subjects.

Extreme weather events

Extreme weather events frequently made headlines and dominated news cycles during this period of shifting public opinion. A time in which broken records, unprecedented happenings and historic events, became common occurrences.

“The Black Summer” of horrific bush fires in Australia and the Amazon wild fires were prominently featured on news channels around the world in 2019.

Flooding in the UK during the winter of 2019/2020 caused havoc across the country, and February 2020 was the wettest since records began.

2021, the period which saw the most dramatic shift in people’s concern, was a cavalcade of extreme weather: Hurricane Ida, the Texas winter storm, the July floods in Europe, wildfires raging globally, and the North Western America heat dome – estimated to have killed a billion marine animals.

Extinction Rebellion / Insulate Britain

Extinction Rebellion (XR) made their way into the public consciousness by getting in the way of traffic and blocking bridges across the Thames in 2018.

From then on they frequently made headlines with protests in cities across the country and attention grabbing direct actions, such as: “storming” the public gallery nude during a commons debate and blocking Oxford Circus with a pink boat for five days.

Insulate Britain, an offshoot of XR, made headlines for weeks in 2021 by glueing themselves to roads, blocking traffic.

Savage believes that groups and individuals, such as XR and Greta Thunberg have made people realise that “the powerful are refusing to act now on the climate crisis, and this is reflected in the record levels of climate concern we are now seeing.”

Media coverage

There has been a change in the ways in which the government and the media have talked about climate issues in recent years. New terminology and goals have been discussed, and the amount of coverage has increased. Evidenced by the number of people who “hadn’t heard” about the term “Net Zero” plummeting from 64% to 9% between March 2020 and December 2021.

Nearly half of British adults are “very concerned” about climate change, according to the latest government data. Extinction Rebellion activist, Suzanne Savage, says that “global events have shown that we are facing an increasingly dire emergency” and that people are starting to wake up. What the data shows In 2012 “very concerned” was the least…

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