Perceptions of climate impacts at odds with scientific data


APRIL 1, 2021

By Paul Homewood

Talking of a pleasant spring day Britain’s wild weather:


A new Savanta ComRes poll commissioned by the Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF) has revealed low levels of public awareness of key trends relating to climate change and international development.

The survey of British adults suggests that the public perceive the impacts of climate change to be more negative than the academic research would suggest. However, there is also a significant minority of the public who say they are ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ concerned by climate change.

In total, 28% of respondents said they were ‘very concerned’ about climate change, 42% said ‘fairly concerned’, 18% were ‘not very concerned’ and 6.4% described themselves as ‘not at all concerned’.

Surprisingly, younger people were actually less likely to say they were ‘very concerned’ about climate change than older generations.

Respondents were then asked a series of questions to test their knowledge of key trends. The first one asked ‘To the closest degree, how much has the average global temperature on Earth risen in the last 150 years?’ They were given a choice between ‘10°C’, ‘5°C’ and ‘1°C’.

Just 21% of respondents gave the correct answer of ‘1°C’, with 35% saying ‘5°C’, and 16% thought the world would warm by a staggering ‘10°C’, a figure that would mean the Earth was at its hottest for tens of millions of years.

The next question looked at mortality from climate-related natural disasters[1]. In contrast to alarming press coverage about extreme weather, the number of people dying has actually fallen by 95% since the 1920s, according to data from the OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database. Only 8.8% of respondents replied correctly, with 12% saying it had increased by 95% and 42% saying it had increased by 25%.

Recent coverage of wildfires in the western United States and in Australia has helped create a perception that wildfires are becoming more frequent. Headlines such as ‘Australia is being burned alive by the climate crisis’and dramatic footage of wildfires could well be influencing people’s views.

But the data show that fires are not becoming more frequent or widespread worldwide. While there is evidence to suggest that ‘fire weather’ is becoming more common in certain areas, overall this impact is more than counteracted by fire suppression efforts. These efforts have led to a ~25% reduction in the annual global burnt area since 2003, a finding that is based on observations from NASA satellites.

There was low public awareness of this trend, with a plurality of respondents (39%) answering that they thought the total land area affected by wildfires had actually increased by 25% since 2003. 10% of people thought that the area affected had ‘decreased by 50%’ and 16% gave the correct answer of a decrease of 25%.

One question that the public seemed to have a better grasp of was the rate of global sea level rise. 34% gave the correct answer according to the Royal Society, of 3.6mm/year on average over the past decade, with 20% opting for 0.36mm/year and 12% going for 30.6mm/year.

The final question concerned food production. Statistics from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) show that global food production has increased by 34% since 2005. While 39% of respondents were able to correctly identify that food production had increased during this period, a significant share, 20%, thought food production had actually gone down.

The results support the findings of previous studies which show a strong negativity bias when people are asked about changes to living conditions. This appears to be no different when it comes to climate change, with the public disposed to believe that things are getting worse; whether that be the physical processes of extreme weather themselves, or their impact on society.

There is no doubt our disgracefully biased media is largely responsible for this situation. Only a couple of weeks ago, I was chatting to my 80 year old neighbour and the conversation got round to climate change, to which she commented on how “it was getting much worse”!

Why, asked I? “Oh, I’ve been watching that David Attenborough” came the reply.

It was a struggle not to swear!

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April 1, 2021 2:16 pm

Not a surprise. People are gullible, and propaganda works.

Reply to  Sparko
April 1, 2021 3:15 pm

Must be a crisis as the cisgender weenies on the left are crying.

Robert Arvanitis
April 1, 2021 2:27 pm

But it’s not about the facts of science, you see.
It’s about the needs of the dirigistes in government!

John Garrett
April 1, 2021 2:47 pm

“I love liberty and I hate fraud”
-H. L. Mencken

…and this whole “Catastrophic/dangerous, CO2-driven anthropogenic global warming/climate change” CONJECTURE crap is


In the words of Francis Menton (“Manhattan Contrarian”), it is:


Reply to  John Garrett
April 1, 2021 3:19 pm

I don’t know, seems like a year ago we had two weeks to flatten the curve and even then some percentage of us were going to be killed off.

Last edited 1 year ago by Scissor
Peta of Newark
April 1, 2021 2:48 pm

And here it is…

Headline:””Gen X, Millennials in Worse Health Than Prior Generations at Same Age“”
It is actually the very same thing that brings on the Magically Conceived thoughts that..
“Things Have Never Been Better””

What’s being discussed in the article, link below, is Mental Health as much as Physical Health.
Only a true believer in the GHGE would assert that they aren’t connected = more Magical Thinking.

It all kicked off with one guy.
Who was belligerent, outspoken, some might say ‘bullying’.
Someone who got into a position of power and used it to enforce his own personal likes/dislikes & opinion on everyone else
(Does that remind of a guy with the initials ‘MM’)

No matter, the guy I’m on about is Ancel Keys and his demonisation of saturated fat.
Gen X would have been the first to feel the full brunt of it
Its in the last figure/pie-chart in this essay – about ‘Food Production’

Because, in the same way as one should not never ever confuse Temperature with Energy-
Do not confuse Calories with Food

Depressing reading, brought on by a, literally, depressing diet

It gets much much worse.
I put a comment saying as much into the BBC today, blaming Covid on poor diet.
This is the BBC that ‘We can trust’
We know so because the BBC tells us so.

Within minutes I got an email saying my comment had been cancelled.

Perfectly circular positive feedback
As we all know, positive feedback loops always self-destruct

Last edited 1 year ago by Peta of Newark
lee riffee
Reply to  Peta of Newark
April 2, 2021 7:30 am

I’d have to agree that food is a big part of the problem…. not only is there so much junk and processed food, but many in my generation (gen-X) simply don’t know how to prepare their own food (and even more so for millennials) . My job consists of caring for elderly people in their homes, and the complaint of many is that a majority of my co-workers can’t even fry an egg! Much less actually cook something….if there wasn’t fast food and frozen dinners they would starve! Needless to say my clients are happy because my mom taught me how to cook and fast food/frozen food was rarely served when I was growing up. That kind of stuff was a treat – not something you lived on. You know the saying “garbage in, garbage out” – couldn’t be more true.

David Wolcott
April 1, 2021 3:02 pm

If Trump was impeached for spreading disinformation that led to social violence and unrest, media organisations should face an analogous process, perhaps a class action suit, for knowingly, and contrary to the evidence, spreading and perpetuating misinformation that led to economically disastrous policies and huge social unrest. There have to be consequences for the dire effects they are causing.

Reply to  David Wolcott
April 2, 2021 12:02 am

The Meeja will hide behind “this is what the experts told us” even though the Meeja didn’t bother to question the “experts

David A
Reply to  Redge
April 3, 2021 5:43 am

…and they choose what “experts” they listen to.

There are plenty of real PhDs that promote sane policy.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  David Wolcott
April 2, 2021 6:56 am

One of Trump’s supporters, the My Pillow Guy, Michael Lindell, says he has the evidence to show the 2020 election was stolen from Trump and 75 million Americans (or 79 million Trump voters, according to Lindell).

Lindell says he has a new website/social media platform called “Frank” and he can’t be censored now, and he is going to start rolling out his evidence for the theft, according to him, this coming Wednesday.

Lindell claims to have had forensic computer scientist who monitored the internet before, during and after the 2020 election, and Lindell claims he can prove the voting machines turned the election from Trump to Biden.

So Michael Lindell claims he is going to “Bring the Kracken”.

That was a phrase associated with Trump supporter, Sidney Powell, who also claimed she could prove the election was stolen, but now she says no reasonable person should have assumed she was saying the election was stolen. Well, Sydney, I consider myself a reasonable person, and the impression I got from you was you had solid evidence to show the election was stolen. Now it’s “Never mind”!

You shouldn’t have done that, Sydney. What a fall from Grace!

Where’s Rudi Guiliani? Will Rudi say never mind, too?

Anyway, Lindell claims he has evidence, so we should know one way or the other in the near future.

We don’t know for sure that the election was literally stolen. We do know for sure that there was enough corruption, and illegal votes involved to have swung the election one way or another.

Georgia tries to reform their election process to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat and the Left goes bonkers. The Left wants to cheat and they don’t like it when the law prevents them from doing so. Their reply is to claim the law is racist.

The left should get ready for more States to do just exactly what Georgia did. Then they can boycott all of the States that make it harder for leftists to cheat.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
April 2, 2021 5:45 pm

Where’s the supreme court?
-Michael Lindell Voting anomalies begin-12:40
-Col. Waldron 12:40-23:45 
-Russel Ramsland Allied Security Oper. Group 23:45-48:45
-Dr. Shiva MIT Systems Designer 48:50-1:02:00
-Matt Deperno Michigan lawyer Antrim, MI lawsuit 1:08:15-1:36:00
-Marry Fanning digital proof 1;36:00-1:49:30
-Gen. McInerney China cyber attack 1:49:30-1:53:45

Summary of the issues with Dominion and ES&S voting systems.

Last edited 1 year ago by S.K.
David A
Reply to  Tom Abbott
April 3, 2021 5:45 am

That is not what Sidney said. Read her actual words.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  David A
April 3, 2021 6:32 am

It appears I confused Sidney Powell with her lawyers.

Her lawyers made the statement:

“But it’s mainly been on my mind because of an assertion made by pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell’s own lawyers in her $1.3 billion Dominion defamation suit. They claimed that “no reasonable person” would believe the conspiracy theories spun by Powell.”

end excerpt

So it wasn’t Powell who actually said those words (as far as I know) but her lawyers said those words and i haven’t heard Sidney contradict them, so she lets what her lawyers say stand.

Do you have a quote from Sidney refuting her lawyer’s position or stating some other position?

Reply to  David Wolcott
April 2, 2021 5:44 pm
April 1, 2021 3:17 pm

Charles, I really appreciate your time in providing this. A great visual on how uninformed so many are when it comes to climate issues. I even had one wrong, I didn’t know that the sea was rising that much per year–but the rest I knew. Most don’t. Especially those that advocate for climate change. Like my brother, the university professor!

Reply to  Shelly
April 1, 2021 4:35 pm

“I didn’t know that the sea was rising that much per year”

That one jumped out at me too. The stated answer is 3.6 mm/yr or ~14 inches/century. I think the general all-around best accepted value is 6 to 12 inches/century.
If you will then, 1.9 mm/yr or 7.5 inches/century. So their given answer is about double what the rest of us are looking at.

The only group I know that is advocating SLR at 3.6 mm/yr is the Sea Level group at Colorado University. Their SLR number is a composite of JASON/TOPEX SLR measurements, GRACE gravity measurements, GIA glacial isostatic rebound, Ice Mass loss in Antarctica, Deep Earth magma movement under Antarctica, Ocean Floor Dropping (!), and god knows what else.

We view their numbers with a certain amount of skepticism.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  TonyL
April 2, 2021 7:03 am

Don’t you love WUWT! Great reply, TonyL!

old construction worker
Reply to  TonyL
April 3, 2021 5:45 am

Several years ago I tried looking into “sea level”. Due to geological forces using sea gages is a joke. The best way is land ice mass lost or gain.

David A
Reply to  TonyL
April 3, 2021 5:47 am

As I recall, tide gauges show about 1.4 mm per year.

Reply to  Shelly
April 2, 2021 12:16 am

That got me too.

I thought we were looking at 1.5mm per annum, so I looked it up:

According to long-term averages estimated from tide gauge measurements, global mean sea level has been rising at a rate of only one to two millimeters per year over the last century. However, mean sea level changes over shorter time scales are more difficult to detect using tide gauges. The rise observed by TOPEX/Poseidon was undetectable using tide gauge data.

Sure enough, if you change the way you measure, but get “better” results.

“Because the expected rise of global mean sea level is only a few millimeters a year, we pushed the capabilities of the instrument to the maximum,” he says. “With a satellite flying at an altitude of 1,336 kilometers, it’s very much a challenge to work at the millimeter level.”

But it’s not all caused by global warming:

“We think that the rise is probably wrapped up in some natural variability of global sea surface temperatures that occurs on something like interannual to decadal scales,” Nerem says.

So even if the satellites were able to measure 3.6mm per annum of sea-level rise, it’s not all caused by evil men.

David A
Reply to  Redge
April 3, 2021 5:56 am

Why would tide gauges have a problem with short time scales?

These people are nuts. Yes, a single tide guage may have a problem over short time scales due to lunar cycles, ocean current flux, and land movements. Yet multiple, well dispersed global tide gauges eliminate the first two issues, and land movement can be corrected for.

When land movement is corrected, globally well dispersed tide gauges show 1.4 mm per year SL rise, and no acceleration in SL rise.

People live where the tide gauges are. Zero people live on the satellites.

spangled drongo
Reply to  Shelly
April 2, 2021 12:58 am

According to Mean Sea Levels in Sydney Harbour which is a stilling pond for the biggest piece of ocean in the world, sea levels over the last century and more are going nowhere [down 4 inches since 1914].

And this is supported by Pacific atolls which are increasing in area:

Kevin kilty
April 1, 2021 3:30 pm

People cannot estimate risk. If they feel the issue is out of their control they overestimate. If they think they have control, they underestimate. I saw some stunning overestimates of the risk of getting covid and then dying of it over the past year. Why should climate change be an exception to this rule?

April 1, 2021 3:51 pm

Can we jointly fund paying to put these charts into about a dozen major newspapers? And what about Facebook and YouTube?

Reply to  BobM
April 2, 2021 12:06 am

I don’t think you’d have an issue crowd funding your idea, the problem will be the newspapers won’t accept the ads and Farcebook and YukTube will take them down as “disinformation”

April 1, 2021 4:04 pm

I’m sorry but SLR is about 1 to 2 mm a year and the 3.6 mm a year is just adjusted satellite data or just more BS and fra-d.
There certainly isn’t any recent increase in rate of SLR according to the global tide gauge data.

April 1, 2021 5:21 pm

Rather than just asking how concerned people are regarding climate change, perhaps “in the direction of global warming” should be appended. I am a bit concerned in the long term about dipping into a new glacial period.

Rory Forbes
April 1, 2021 5:35 pm

I’ve known it was a fraud since the man-made global cooling scare (in which there was > 80% consensus) abruptly reversed itself and became “global warming” (briefly) before it became AGW. My conviction was reinforced when the true believer blogs (Tamino, Peter Hadfield etc) tried to pretend there was no “consensus” that MMGC was a thing.

I have seen nothing to alter my opinion since then. We’re being lied to on an extravagant scale.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rory Forbes
Mumbles McGuirck
April 1, 2021 6:07 pm

80-years old? She’s probably got ‘The Hots’ for Sir David. 😉
I’ve recently been pressing my fellow climate skeptics that the public & press have no clue what the actual numbers are regarding climate change. They’ve been sold on scare stories devoid of facts. This poll and others like may help to open people’s eyes. We need to press getting the actual numbers to folks.

April 1, 2021 6:19 pm

Your 3.6 mm/yr sea level rise comes from satellite data. Tide gauges, which measure with precision actual sea level rise gives a different answer – about 1.6 mm/yr. Also true is that sea level has been rising at this rate for about 150 years as measured by tide gauges and as long as 6,000 years as measured by coastal impacts.

Granum Salis
April 1, 2021 6:47 pm

A question they neglected to ask is “what is sea level?”

It is, after all, hard to know if the goose is getting fatter if you’ve never seen a goose.

Britannica says sea level is the interface between sky and water.

NOAA talks about sea level rise but not sea level, that I saw.

As best I can tell, sea level is the distance from a wavelet to a satellite called Sentinel or Jason or Dr. Michael. Seems to vary quite a bit, but you can average it all out.

Mike Maguire
April 1, 2021 7:58 pm

This is exactly what made hijacking climate science so easy for the UN, then IPCC, then world governments. This includes rewriting climate history to wipe out the inconvenient Medieval Warm Period/Climate Optimum, 1,000 years ago, in order to tell us that this warming is unprecedented and could only be caused by the increase in CO2.

How many people have extensive weather/climate records on their computer that they study? Or degrees in atmospheric science? Almost none. Most people rely entirely on the MSM and social media to get their information about climate change. Whatever those sources tell them is what they believe and think that they know. How could it be any different based on the dynamics of communication in modern society?

When important measured observations of the biggest impact of all(by a wide margin) from the increase in CO2 is released, like the study below……CNN and others ignore it.

Carbon Dioxide Fertilization Greening Earth, Study Finds

Instead, they cover the increase in this beneficial gas and building block for life, CO2 like this:

CO2 levels at highest for 3 million years – when seas were 20 meters higher

And this:

There’s an unlikely beneficiary of coronavirus: The planet

Mike Maguire
Reply to  Mike Maguire
April 1, 2021 8:22 pm

Actually, I should give CNN credit on the last link because they also show the drop in NO2 and particulate matter, which is real pollution.

Steve Case
April 1, 2021 8:58 pm

Sea level rise of 3.6 mm/yr? NOAA says it’s an
average global sea level rise rate of 1.7-1.8 mm/yr.

There is some acceleration over the last 100 years
of about 0.01 mm/yr² which projects out to a rise
in sea level of about 6.5 inches by 2100. 
Source: PSMSL 

April 1, 2021 10:37 pm

Steven Hayward PhD at the Pacific Research Institute used to publish an annual report “Index of Leading Environmental Indicators” that listed all the measured trends in air quality, water quality, national and global tree cover, climate change, etc. Almost all the trends were (and still are) favorable, contrary to popular perception informed by distorted reporting in the media. Mr. Hayward still teaches and writes extensively and publishes a weekly “The Geek in Pictures” at PowerlineBlog illustrating data and plots that counter popular narratives in the media.

April 1, 2021 10:55 pm

18,000 years ago sea level was 120 meters lower than today, a fact David Attenborough no doubt mentions somewhere in his many enviro videos, and if he doesn’t plenty of people have in widely watched PBS, Discovery, etc. documentaries.

So what is needed is some remedial arithmetic education to explain that 120m over 180 centuries works out to an historic average SLR of about 67mm/year, and all but 100mm of that 120m rise (0.08%) increase occurred before the industrial revolution. So 1.9mm or 3.6mm or even 5mm or more are not going to hurt the planet. Mother Gaia is just fine.

April 1, 2021 10:58 pm

Correction, darn iPhone keyboard input. The historic average is 6.7mm/year, not 67 : )

Vincent Causey
April 1, 2021 11:27 pm

The key point is this: even when the majority think climate related events are worse than they actually are, they still don’t care very much about climate change as an issue.

April 2, 2021 12:20 am

Less people are killed by hurricanes, typhoons and floods because in the developing countries where these had the most impact, in the last 50 years there have been effective warning and evacuation systems and a system of providing refuges.

It is this disaster provision which has massively reduced typhoon/flood deaths in Bangladesh, for example: not any lessening in typhoons or their severity.

Reply to  griff
April 2, 2021 5:04 pm

Griff, the data show there is certainly no increase in typhoons or their severity, and if anything, there has been a slight decrease, and a significant decrease in floods. Claiming climate change is causing these events to increase in numbers or severity is not truthful.

David A
Reply to  griff
April 3, 2021 6:12 am

So Griff, as there is zero GLOBAL increase in severe weather events, and modern infrastructure and weather monitoring has made a 95 percent reduction in lost lives, is the CO2 hair on fire emergency over?

Charles Fairbairn
April 2, 2021 1:21 am

This is a major problem and the ignorance extends right up to those in positions of power over our affairs. Hans Rosling’s book “Factfulness deals with this, giving good examples of this ignorance in many high level conferences and summit meetings with delegates performing little better than chimpanzees in answering the sort of questions we have in this post.

It stems from the basic Media philosophy that Good News is bad story – Bad News is good story, resulting in this gross bias in understanding and beliefs. Whatever the truth of any individual stories this endemic relentless bias subsumes the actual truth in the wider perspective.

We as individuals should be aware of this.

M Courtney
April 2, 2021 1:28 am

Surprisingly, younger people were actually less likely to say they were ‘very concerned’ about climate change than older generations.

In the UK, younger people do not watch the BBC. It is the BBC that is the main source of misinformation about climate change in the UK.

Also, the almost a third of people who said they didn’t know about wildfire impacts is very sensible. The UK is not largely affected by wildfires – certainly not in the areas where people live. It is not an issue that people need to follow unless they have some specialist interest.

The greater awareness of sea level rise shows that people do know what affects them in the UK.

April 2, 2021 2:40 am

Davis Attenborough does have a lot to answer for but he is not alone. Every TV channel at every opportunity slips in a comment about climate change. The people are bombarded with this nonsense several times every day. No wonder they believe it. I cannot remember the last time anyone on any programme spoke out against it. And of course the newspapers echo this rubbish. When recently I posted a comment in the Daily Express on the subject it very quickly disappeared.

April 2, 2021 6:24 am

The southern ocean has been cooling for decades and is permanently surrounded by a cool SST anomaly

comment image

Antarctic sea ice is as robust as ever with no decrease, possibly even increasing. Antarctica itself also shows an atmospheric cooling trend. Even deep sea current around Antarctica are showing cooling.

The climate community as a whole is in denial of this very significant “warming hole” at the South Pole.

Coach Springer
April 2, 2021 6:24 am

Now do COVID.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Coach Springer
April 2, 2021 8:23 am

Speaking of covid:

“In the study, the team screened 430 drugs from among the approximately 200,000 compounds.

The scientists aimed to block the coronavirus’s ability to use cellular proteins to replicate rather than attack the virus directly because drugs that directly interfere with the virus are expected to have trouble keeping up with SARS-CoV-2’s propensity to mutate. . .

They found berzosertib consistently stalled the coronavirus’s replication without damaging cells.

The scientists also tested the drug against the coronaviruses that cause the diseases SARS and MERS, both of which triggered deadly outbreaks earlier in the 2000s.

They found that it was effective in stopping the replication of those viruses as well.

end excerpts

April 2, 2021 10:25 am

I would bet that similar questions an almost ANY scientific fact vs. perception issue would produce similar results. People don’t actually know any science, and ignore facts in favor of propaganda.

David A
Reply to  TonyG
April 3, 2021 6:15 am

Because the media is the enemy of the people.

Roger Knights
April 3, 2021 1:17 am

In order to have an impact on public opinion on climate change, the technique used here should be employed. I.e., a selection of alarmists’ weakest claims should each be briefly stated and briefly refute, with an accompanying graphic. A YouTube video of 30 or so such refutations would make a big impression.

In addition, a similarly structured exposé of alarmists’ sins of omission should be compiled. IOW, “here’s what they claim” vs. “here’s what they leave out.”

Reply to  Roger Knights
April 3, 2021 3:09 pm

I would love to see something like that. Unfortunately, youtube would probably take it down almost immediately so you won’t get that large of an audience.

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