This report was commissioned as part of the Scottish Government’s work to develop a new Public Engagement Strategy for climate change. At the core of this work is the need to understand public attitudes to climate change and review different models of public engagement to examine what works in achieving the transformation needed.

Key findings
  • Levels of concern about climate change have increased in recent years. The review finds that most people in Scotland believe that climate change is happening, and agree that climate change is an immediate and urgent issue. Scots are more likely to say they believe human activity has been a factor in the causes of climate change than people in England and Wales.
  • The Scottish public generally feel that more could be done to tackle climate change and support climate targets and agreements, and believe that governments should be showing leadership for tackling climate change.
  • The review identifies a number of ways governments can engage the public on climate change – no one identified as the ‘best’ approach. Each approach offer strengths and limitations, and reflect the range of different purposes it is designed to serve. 
  • The findings lend weight to the Scottish Government’s focus on public behaviours and public engagement as part of its work to tackle the climate emergency. However, levels of concern about and personal action on climate change issues vary across different demographic groups.
  • In the design and facilitation of public engagement it is therefore worth considering carefully the different ‘starting points’ that different groups may have in terms of understanding and engagement on climate change. For effective engagement, it is important to make climate change easy to understand and relatable to the public.

It is worth noting that the vast majority of studies included in the review took place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Two of the surveys and six of the public engagement examples included in this review were carried out during the COVID-19 pandemic. As these were conducted during a time of crisis and transition, it is too soon to say whether these findings accurately reflect the attitudes and behaviours of the public in a post-COVID-19 world. This review also does not have enough data to make comparisons on public attitudes to climate change before and after COVID-19.