1. Has the erratic nature of weather in the UK this year increased your belief that climate change is a reality?
Yes: 37% No: 56% Don't know: 7%
The majority No vote here reflects a strong belief among engineers that the climate has always been changeable and that people are too willing to take short-term events and extrapolate them to prove or disprove their theories. The weather has been weird recently, but no one really knows why, it was felt.
2. Do you believe that UK weather patterns will be increasingly characterised by periods of drought and heavy rainfall?
Yes: 56 No: 21% Don't know: 23%
If it’s tricky to explain why the weather has been rather erratic in recent months, it’s equally difficult to second-guess how it will behave in future. But most engineers believe we should get used to periods of severe fluctuations, although many pointed out they had no real basis for such an assumption.
3. Should authorities start spending more money on hardening national infrastructure against the threat of climate change?
Yes: 76% No: 16% Don't know: 8%
Whatever the reason for the odd weather patterns, engineers believed strongly that government must act to minimise its effect. Suggestions included strenghthening existing flood defences, not building new houses on flood plains, and getting privately owned utilities to reduce the amount of water lost to leaks. Doing nothing was not an option, it seemed.
4. Do you expect negotiations in Qatar on climate change at the end of the year to lead to a globally binding agreement on greenhouse gas emissions?
Yes: 5% No: 88% Don't know: 7%
Engineers were sceptical of the international community coming together and agreeing a binding agreement on greenhouse gas emissions. Too many vested interests, was the reason given by many. Why should developing nations agree to hinder the pace of growth when developed nations never gave such considerations a moment of thought, it was asked.
5. Should the Qatar negotiations discuss the controversial science of geo-engineering, or artificial interventions to modify the climate?
Yes: 54% No: 32% Don't know: 14%
Geo-engineering has always been a highly controversial subject that has polarised opions among our readers. That said, a slim majority felt that man-made attempts to alter the Earth’s atmosphere should be considered as part of a package of mitigation.
6. Do you believe that geo-engineering techniques such as the widespread use of air-capture machines will emerge as valuable tools in the fight against climate change?
Yes: 22% No: 51% Don't know: 27%
The basis for the strong No vote here was that it is conceited for mankind to assume that it could do anything to control or influence the Earth’s environment. There was also a strong consensus that geo-engineering is such a radical step that it would never garner enough support from governments or the public to ever emerge as a serious suite of technologies. Other engineers said geo-engineering was treating symptoms rather than the cause.
7. Have the problems with the global economy effectively marginalised the climate change debate?
Yes: 82% No: 14% Don't know: 4%
Go back to pre-2008 and climate change, or global warming as it was then, was on the lips of all powerful politicians. Now concerns about the environment seem to have taken a back seat to worries about the global economy. Indeed, a strong majority of engineers felt climate change had become less important, with many saying the required spend on mitigation efforts would come about only when economies were flourishing and central budgets were available to fund large-scale schemes.
8. Should the government place the fight against climate change higher up its list of priorities?
Yes: 50% No: 39% Don't know: 11%
The answer to this question depended very much on whether the respondent believed climate change was happening and whether or not it was a man-made phenomenon. But exactly half of our readers felt that it was a subject worthy of greater attention from our political elite. There was a strong element of cynicism, though. Many readers said that politicians would only ever give lip-service to environmental matters because there would be no clear sign of short-term successes. Governments thought in four to five year cycles, so combating climate change was hardly likely to be a top priority, it was felt.