Support for natural gas as an alternative source of fuel is decreasing due to public concerns about climate change, according to a study published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.
Despite being promoted as a clean way to lower carbon emissions, natural gas extraction is unlikely to be seen as beneficial by people who are worried about the impact of climate. The team from the University of Edinburgh, UK, found that the more people believed climate change to be serious, the more likely they were to oppose using natural gas. The researchers asked 1000 people in the UK in April 2019 and then repeated the survey for three years. Among other questions, the participants were asked about their understanding of climate change and the degree to which they thought the evidence on climate change was valid. In addition, they were also asked about gas extraction in the UK, including their views on drilling beneath the seabed, traditional onshore drilling, and fracking.
The study showed that the public supported North Sea gas development in 2019 (80% support), but this dropped in the following years: 74% in 2020 and then 66% in 2021. Surprisingly, it seems to be rising again, with 70% public support in 2022. The authors found that, with each annual survey, the public’s beliefs about climate change increasingly affected their views about using natural gas as an alternative source of energy. Understanding how serious climate change can be predicted opposition to gas extraction eight times more strongly in 2022 compared to 2019.
“Tense global politics, spikes in gas prices, and increasingly urgent warnings about climate change raise questions over the future use of natural gas. We found year after year, beliefs about climate change become more and more important for explaining whether people support or oppose natural gas extraction in the UK. Understanding the relationship between public views about natural gas and climate change could help reveal how the public will respond to policies seeking to expand gas extraction in a carbon-constrained world,” said Dr. Darrick Evensen of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science.
Evensen, D., Whitmarsh, L., Devine-Wright, P. et al. Growing importance of climate change beliefs for attitudes towards gas. Nat. Clim. Chang. 13, 240–243 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-023-01622-7