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

Nick F. Pidgeon, Irene Lorenzoni, Wouter Poortinga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

292 Citations (Scopus)


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. © 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-85
Number of pages17
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008

Cite this