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SEABS'08: The Scottish Environmental Attitudes and Behaviours Survey 2008

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ATTITUDES TO THE ENVIRONMENT

IMPORTANCE OF ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

Overall, 12% of respondents considered the environment or environmental issues (such as global warming or climate change) as one of the most important issues facing Scotland today, with 4% saying that the environment is the single most important issue. Respondents were more likely to mention issues relating to the economy and the 'credit crunch' (38%), crime, law and order and anti-social behaviour (32%), and the Scottish constitution (17%).*

* The 17% figure for the 'Scottish Constitution' response reflects that all figures are rounded to the nearest percentage point after additions.

Figure 1: Most important issues facing Scotland - top 10 responses

Q. What do you see as the most important issue facing Scotland today?
Q. And what do you see as other important issues facing Scotland today?

Figure 1: Most important issues facing Scotland - top 10 responses

Base: All respondents (3,054)

The environment was mentioned more often when respondents were asked what were the most important issues facing the world, with around a third of respondents (35%) reporting this. Respondents were most likely to view international conflict (such as terrorism and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) as an important issue facing the world (43%), while 35% mentioned the economy.

When asked about environmental issues specifically, climate change/global warming was mentioned more than any other issue (41%). The second most commonly mentioned issue was weather patterns/freak weather (19%). Other issues included: household waste (18%), consumption of natural resources (15%) and CO 2 emissions (15%).

KNOWLEDGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE, ITS CAUSES AND EFFECTS

Most respondents said they knew something about climate change. Just over two-fifths (43%) said they know a fair amount, and 5% said they know a great deal about climate change. Two-fifths (40%) said they know not very much. In contrast, 10% said that they had heard of climate change but knew nothing about it. Only 1% of respondents in Scotland have never heard of climate change.

Those who said they know at least something about climate change were asked what they thought were the main causes of climate change. Emissions, including emissions from cars and road transport (35%); general CO 2 emissions (34%); and factories and power stations (30%) were the most common responses.

Respondents who said they knew something about climate change were also asked what the effects of climate change were. The majority of respondents mentioned changes in weather (61%). Melting ice caps and rises in sea levels were mentioned by 35% of respondents, global warming by 30%, and more flooding and droughts by 25%.

Figure 2: Perceived effects of climate change

Q. From what you know or have heard, what would you say are the main effects of climate change?

Figure 2: Perceived effects of climate change

Base: All who know a great deal, a fair amount or not very much about climate change (2,699).

IMMEDIACY OF THE THREAT OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND VIEWS ON THE USEFULNESS OF INDIVIDUAL CHANGES

The majority of respondents (57%) said climate change is an immediate and urgent problem. Around a fifth of respondents (22%) said that climate change is more of a problem for the future. Fewer respondents said that climate change is not really a problem (4%) or are not convinced that climate change is happening (9%).

Figure 3: Perceived immediacy of the threat from climate change

Q. Which of these statements, if any, comes closest to your view?

Figure 3: Perceived immediacy of the threat from climate change

Base: All respondents (3,054)

Respondents were asked if they agreed with the statement, "It is not worth Scotland trying to combat climate change, because other countries will just cancel out what we do". Overall, 22% agreed with this statement and 65% disagreed. When asked if they agreed that "it's not worth me doing things to help the environment if others don't do the same", 22% agreed and 68% disagreed.

Figure 4: Agreement/disagreement with statements about climate change and the environment

Q. To what extent do you agree or disagree with each statement?

Figure 4: Agreement/disagreement with statements about climate change and the environment

Base: All who completed the CASI section (2,673)

Respondents were asked what two or three actions they thought would most help reduce climate change. The most commonly mentioned actions were recycling (45%), avoiding creating waste in the first place (36%), using a more fuel-efficient car (32%) and making fewer car journeys (28%).