Thursday, 21 November 2013
Extreme Weather Gives Poll Boost to the Greens
As is my routine, I was flicking through the freebie London newspaper the Evening Standard as I travelled on the underground home from work a few days back. Normally, there is not much of interest in this publication with its incessant fawning stories about the Royal Family and whatever press releases the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, has been spewing out, about what a marvellous Mayor he is. Oh and how much house prices have risen in London, is another perpetual news item.
I’ve usually got through the paper in about fifteen minutes. Then a small story in the corner of one of the pages caught my eye. It was the latest opinion poll from Ipsos MORI on voting intentions. The headline was about Labour stretching its lead a little over the Tories, but further down it also mentioned that the Green party had jumped 3 points to 7% in the national poll. This is a respectable showing for the Greens (only 1 point behind the Lib Dems and UKIP, both on 8%). I’ve seen us go up and down in polls before and know that the sampling can make a big difference in our poll numbers. If more people from the south east of England are polled for instance, we will show higher than normal.
But I also got to thinking if the extreme weather we have seen recently (hurricanes and cyclones in the Philippines, USA, Sardinia and England), has had some effect on people’s perceptions on climate change? Like it or not, despite our best efforts in recent years, the public still do view the Green party as a purely environmental party. I remembered a few years back, that the German Greens did particularly well in an election held just after severe flooding had hit Germany.
Being a bit of a psephological junkie, I get the Yougov emailing alerts for their daily polling reports, and yesterday, I received what looks to confirm my suspicions. This poll shows that 38% of those surveyed think that the extreme weather we have seen around the world is caused by man made climate change. Although 39% who have a view do not believe this, these are big numbers for the Green party. If almost half of people do take the issue seriously, and as these events become more common, we should benefit electorally. Whether we will have enough time to do something about it once it starts getting really serious, is another matter of course.
From what I have read the scientific evidence is not conclusive on the connection between stronger storms and warming oceans, but it does point in that direction. Atlantic hurricanes have increased both in power and frequency, coinciding with warming oceans that provide energy to these storms. In the Eastern Pacific, there have been fewer but stronger hurricanes recently. More research is needed to better understand the extent to which other factors, such as atmospheric stability and circulation, affect hurricane development.
Of course, to me it is pretty much commonsense that the warmer the water sucked up into these tornados, the stronger they are likely to be. It does look like this commonsense is taking hold amongst the public at large, which during an economic recession is pretty significant, I think.