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Climate change or nuclear power - No thanks! A quantitative study of public perceptions and risk framing in Britain

Pidgeon, Nicholas Frank ORCID:, Lorenzoni, Irene and Poortinga, Wouter ORCID: 2008. Climate change or nuclear power - No thanks! A quantitative study of public perceptions and risk framing in Britain. Global Environmental Change 18 (1) , pp. 69-85. 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2007.09.005

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The UK is witnessing a new line in political debate around new nuclear energy generation as one potential feature of future energy policy, specifically for contributing to climate change mitigation alongside energy security. Little is known about how ordinary citizens might be responding to this reframing. This paper reports the results from a major British survey (n=1491) undertaken in the autumn of 2005. The consistent message is that while higher proportions of the British public are prepared to accept nuclear power if they believe it contributes to climate change mitigation, this is a highly conditional view, with very few actively preferring this over renewable sources given the choice. People see both climate change and nuclear power as problematic in terms of risks and express only a ‘reluctant acceptance’ of nuclear power as a ‘solution’ to climate change. The combined data from this survey can also be interpreted as an indication of the complexity surrounding beliefs about energy futures and the difficulty of undertaking simplistic risk–risk tradeoffs within any single framing of the issues; such as nuclear energy versus climate change. The results also indicate that it would be unwise, in the UK as elsewhere, to simplistically assume that there exists any single or stable public ‘opinion’ on such complex matters. We conclude with a discussion of the role and implications of the survey evidence for the policy process.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords: Nuclear power; Climate change; British public risk perceptions; Framing; Energy policy
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0959-3780
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2022 09:48

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