Climate change concern reduces support for gas

The public’s concerns about climate change could reduce support for natural gas as an alternative fuel source, research suggests.

People who were concerned about climate change were more likely to oppose natural gas extraction, which is often promoted as a relatively clean way to reduce emissions, the study says.   

oil refinery

Public opinion

Researchers found that the degree to which people believed climate change to be serious and evidence on climate change to be reliable determined the strength of their opinions about natural gas production.

Experts at the University of Edinburgh surveyed 1,000 people in the UK in April 2019 and asked the same questions again each year for four years.

The group were asked to what extent they believed climate change is serious, and the degree to which they thought the evidence on climate change is reliable.

Gas extraction

They were also asked to give their opinion on extracting natural gas in the UK. Those surveyed gave their views about offshore gas extraction via drilling beneath the seabed, traditional onshore drilling, and fracking – the recovery of gas from shale rock.

The results showed that support for North Sea gas development was at 80 per cent in 2019, 74 per cent in 2020, 66 per cent in 2021, but then increased to 70 per cent in 2022.

With each annual survey, climate change beliefs increasingly affected views on natural gas development, experts said.  Believing climate change is serious predicted opposition to gas extraction eight times more strongly in 2022 compared to 2019.

The results suggests climate change beliefs increasingly predict opposition to natural gas, the researchers say.

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.

Dr Darrick EvensenSchool of Social and Political Science

The study is published in Nature Climate Change This study was funded by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC-UKRI).

The research was carried out in partnership with the Universities of Bath, Exeter, Stirling, Heriot-Watt, Reading, Warwick in the UK, and the Universities of Utah State and Michigan State in the United States. 

Link to study

School of Social and Political Science

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