The world is getting warmer, the Arctic sea ice is melting and today’s atmospheric C02 concentration is higher than any time in the last 800,000 years.

In a week that sees 195 world leaders and more than 40,000 delegates meeting in Paris for the 21st Conference of the Parties aiming to tackle climate change, what can open-data tell us about British perceptions on global warming? And what is Bristol’S, as the UK’s first European Green Capital, attitude towards climate change?

According to a research published by the University of Cardiff, almost nine in ten Brits (88%) think that the world’s climate is changing. Despite this high level of awareness of the ongoing process, just over one in ten (11%) British people see climate change as an imminent threat. When asked to consider the three greatest challenges facing the UK over the next twenty years, just 15% thought global warming will pose a considerable danger to the country. Indeed, the research suggests that immigration and the economy remain the public’s main concerns in the coming decades (cited by 31% and 28% of participants, respectively).


These levels of relative nonchalance among the British public could be due to the fact that some of the consequences of climate change are perceived as somewhat foreign or something to worry about in the future. However, the direct effects of global warming are already being felt. In the UK, 2014 was the warmest year in more than 350 years (Central England Temperature has been recorded since 1659), while globally, 2015 is expected to set a record for the warmest year ever recorded.

So, who do people believe is to blame for these hikes in temperature, among the other consequences climate change brings? The University of Cardiff’s report shows that almost half of participants (48%) consider that climate change is partly due to natural processes and partly due to human activity, while almost four in ten Brits (37%) think that humans are entirely to blame for the planet heating up.

Who do people believe is to blame for climate change.pptx

On a more local level, now that Bristol’s year as the European Green Capital is coming to its natural close, the latest data from Bristol City Council allows us to measure the city’s pulse. Despite the fact that the city’s green consciousness seems to have reduced somewhat since 2009 – when eight in ten (78%) residents said they were worried about the effects of climate change – The Quality of Life Report 2014-2015 illustrates that seven in ten Bristol’s residents (71%) are now concerned about the impact of climate change in the UK, a higher percentage if compared with the 67% of residents who felt the same in 2013. The data from the past year could suggest that there has been resurgence in concern for the environment, global warming and climate change as a whole.

While it’s clear that there has been a year-on-year increase in the number of residents concerned about climate change, it’s important to bear in mind that every ward has its own story and that the level of concern varies dramatically across the city. Generally, central areas of Bristol are more preoccupied with climate change, with Ashley (85%), Southville and Redland (both 82%) leading the way. By contrast, Whitchurch Park (56%), Hengrove (54%) and Southmead (48%) are the areas with the lowest percentage of residents who consider themselves concerned about the changing climate.

While the world waits for the results of the climate change talks in France, many Bristol residents have already done their bit to help tackle global climate change: just over half (53%) have reduced their household waste, while a further 47% have cut down on their domestic energy consumption. Unfortunately however, Bristolians don’t seem as proactive when it comes to changing their travel habits – under one in five (18%) has stopped using their car in favour of more eco-friendly modes of transport.

So, will be 2015, the year of the European Green Capital, be a turning point for Bristol’s green consciousness? What will be the legacy of Green Capital 2015? While Bristol residents’ appear to be more engaged with the issues surrounding climate change than they were last year, a critical question remains on a global level: will the COP 21 bring an internationally binding agreement between states to reduce climate change? According to Cardiff University, almost three quarters (74%) of British people hope so, suggesting a national wake-up call to our political leaders to tackle the real threat that climate change poses to all of us.


Simone Grassi, Bristol Is Open

Bristol City Council, Open Data Portal
Quality of Life Survey 2014-2015
Public perceptions of climate change in Britain following winter 2013/2014 flooding, University of Cardiff
Source : House of Commons, Social Indicators, Briefing Paper, November 2015