Written by By Eliot Mason
Eliot Mason is the CNN Meteorologist and WeatherCenter Scientist for UK. Before joining the CNN Weather Center, Eliot was a meteorologist at the BBC and the Daily Mail.
When it comes to the coming climate change threat, far more people in Britain are worried about the world falling under a pandemic than about global warming itself.
A poll for Press Association found the majority of voters in the UK believe the world will develop diseases such as the deadly Zika virus, the flu or Ebola in the future — with 24% saying they were “concerned greatly” about such a development.
Less than half of Britons (44%) are concerned with climate change, mainly as a result of the failure of world leaders to reach an agreement on this issue in Paris in 2015.
UK voters are also far more likely to vote for politicians who deny climate change, and fear it could happen. Nearly a third (31%) of those polled thought politicians who deny climate change are more likely to give young people a better education, compared to just 7% who believe those who accept it are.
British people are even more likely to think they will be less safe as a result of climate change, with 42% saying they would be “concerned greatly” in terms of their own lives.
By contrast, more people are currently worried about what political leaders will do in the face of the threat of a pandemic (44%) than climate change itself (36%).
Across the world, the risks of disease and climate change haven’t changed much since the last survey, where an optimistic 63% of global citizens (including 78% of Brits) were concerned about both, with only 7% saying they were not concerned.
The highest level of concern in the world comes from Jordan, where more than a third (34%) of citizens believe the world will fall under a pandemic. At the other end of the scale, New Zealand is the most worried nation in the world (24%) to see extreme weather events like wildfires or tsunamis because of climate change.
More than three-quarters of those surveyed said politicians should agree an agreement to cut emissions and reduce global warming.
But rather than doing so, two-thirds believe elected officials in countries including the US and UK have ignored the issue of climate change. Almost as many also think politicians are more likely to cut school fees or taxes to hide their failures.
The polls were carried out ahead of a United Nations-backed conference called the UN Climate Change Summit on the weekend of September 21 and 22 in New York. UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa says she hopes the summit will “nudge and help governments to make commitments, commitments that show that they are indeed serious about taking action to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.”
The World Meteorological Organization last week upgraded the severity of recent US hurricanes Irma and Harvey and said extreme weather linked to climate change would continue around the world. A report published by the agency stated “emissions are projected to get steadily hotter over the coming decades.”