Key findings of the Climate Institute report, 'Climate of the Nation 2014 Australian attitudes on climate change: Are Australians climate dinosaurs?' 70 percent of Australians accept that cimate change is occurring, up 6 percent from 2012. Graphic: Climate Institute

By Oliver Milman   
22 June 2014

(theguardian.com) – The Australian public is deeply unhappy over the government’s response to the challenge of climate change, amid a revival in support for climate science and a strengthening belief that Australia is already feeling the impact of a warming planet, according to new polling.

The Climate of the Nation poll [pdf], conducted by JWS Research among 1,145 adult Australians on behalf of the Climate Institute, found that 70% accepted the mainstream scientific position that climate change is occurring.

This is a 10% increase compared to when the same question was asked in the poll in 2012, suggesting a rebounding public belief in the findings of the overwhelming majority of climate scientists. A further 89% said the effects of climate change were already beginning to bite in Australia.

But while more than half of respondents felt the federal government was the primary body which should address climate change, there was a negative rating of -18 when people were asked to rank the government’s performance.

This compares to a -1 rating from last year. These rankings are the differential between respondents’ "good" versus’ "poor" response to the government’s performance. Some 57% of those polled said the government should take climate change more seriously.

A mere 20% of those questioned said they are convinced that Tony Abbott is concerned about climate change, with 53% feeling that he isn’t. Nearly a third of people believe opposition leader Bill Shorten is worried about the problem, with around the same proportion of people thinking the reverse is true.

In a further blow to the Coalition, for the first time more people support carbon pricing than oppose it. According to the poll, 34% back the carbon pricing laws, up 6% on 2012. Public opposition to carbon pricing has collapsed by 22% since 2012, when the Coalition was repeatedly attacking the then Labor government over the policy, the poll found.

The finding comes ahead of the latest government attempt to repeal the carbon pricing mechanism on Monday. So far, the dismantling of the carbon price, as well as the scrapping of associated bodies such as the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, has been blocked by a combination of Labor and Greens senators.

According to the poll, 47% of people think that carbon pricing is preferable to no climate change policy, with just 22% supporting the government’s alternative Direct Action policy, which will offer voluntary grants to businesses keen to reduce their carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, 61% of respondents said they want Australia to be a leader in tackling climate change, up 9% from 2012, amid solid support for renewable energy initiatives.

On the Renewable Energy Target, which the government is currently reviewing amid speculation it may be wound back or scrapped, 71% of respondents said they want the target to be 20% or higher by 2020. A further 76% said there should be government incentives for renewable energy, such as wind and solar. [more]

Australians unhappy over Coalition's response to climate challenge


Contact: Kristina Stefanova, Communications Director, The Climate Institute, 02 8239 6299 
23 June 2014

Australia’s political leaders risk being stuck in the past as public attitudes on climate change and its solutions are on the rebound, according to the Climate of the Nation 2014 survey [pdf] from The Climate Institute. 

“More Australians think that climate change is occurring and are concerned about various physical impacts, present and future, with an overwhelming majority agree that tackling climate change can create opportunities for new jobs and investment,” said John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute, launching the report this morning at Parliament House with member for Indi, Cathy McGowan AP MP.

“There is a rebound in desire to see the nation lead on finding solutions and a strong expectation of government to address the climate challenge, alongside a very poor mark on its performance. Australians continue to be uncertain, if not cynical, about political parties and their policies on climate change.”

“There is mistrust of both Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten regarding their attitudes on climate change, but particularly Tony Abbott. Yet a clear majority think the Abbott Government should take climate change more seriously.”

“Opposition to carbon pricing has continued to decline and, as in other polls, there is a decline in the minority supporting repeal. For the first time more support carbon pricing than oppose it but there is still uncertainty about its benefits and its operation, while only around one in five Australians thinks that the Government’s alternative is credible.”

Climate of the Nation 2014 benchmarks public attitudes against similar research from mid-2012, mid-2013, and in some cases earlier. This year’s results are based on a nationally representative online survey conducted by JWS Research 16-20 May 2014 among 1,145 Australians aged 18+.

Key findings include: 

  • 70 per cent of Australians think that climate change is occurring, up 10 points from 2012. An overwhelming majority (89 per cent) of those think that we are feeling the impacts already.
  • 61  per cent want Australia to be a leader in climate solutions, up 9 points from 2012 and on the upturn for a second consecutive year after the low points in 2012.
  • The Federal government is seen as most responsible for addressing climate change, but its performance is ranked very low, with a net negative -18 rating, even lower than in 2012 during the toxic political battles over carbon pricing.
  • Only 20 per cent trust Tony Abbott when he says he is concerned about addressing climate change, in contrast to 53 per cent who do not, including 37 per cent who strongly distrust the Prime Minister. A net negative rating of -33.
  • Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is also in net negative territory, but at just -1. Around 31 per cent trust Bill Shorten when he says he is concerned about climate change, while 32 per cent do not trust him. 
  • 57 per cent think that the Abbott Government should take climate change more seriously.
  • For the first time, more Australians support the carbon pricing laws than oppose them. Over a third (34 per cent) say they support the laws, up 6 points from 2012. Opposition is down 22 points from 2012. 
  • 47 per cent now think that carbon pricing is better than taking no action, up 8 points from 2012. Support for the government’s proposed replacement “Direct Action” plan is low at 22 per cent. 
  • 70 per cent agree tackling climate change creates economic opportunities and support for renewable energy is strong and resilient in the face of escalating attacks.
  • 71 per cent want the Renewable Energy Target to be at least 20 per cent by 2020, or higher, even when they are presented with the argument that the RET is a subsidy that drives up consumer energy bills. Only 11 per cent think the RET should be exactly 20 per cent.
  • 76 per cent think that state government should be putting in place incentives for more renewable energy, like wind farms. More regional Australians agree (79 per cent) than metropolitan (74 per cent).
  • 82 per cent of Australians choose solar in their top three energy sources, 64 per cent choose wind, while coal (15 per cent) is even less popular than nuclear (20 per cent). Some 28 per cent have gas in their top three.

“These and many of the other findings this year reinforce that while the dinosaurs in politics and business are roaring across our landscape, the majority of Australians are shrewder about the impacts, the opportunities and the need for leadership.”

“It is OK to like dinosaurs, but this year’s Climate of the Nation survey shows that it may well be politically dangerous to be one when it comes to climate change and its solutions,” concluded Connor.

The launch of this report follows Sunday’s launch of The Climate Institute’s “Stop the Dinosaurs” communication campaign outside Parliament. This campaign aims to highlight the effectiveness of carbon and renewable energy laws in reducing pollution and increasing renewable energy while the economy has continued to grow. The campaign can be found at www.stopthedinosaurs.org.au.

The full communication package of Climate of the Nation 2014 – including factsheets, infographics and Vox Pop videos - will be available at 11am on Monday at www.climateinstitute.org.au

Australians are no climate dinosaurs as support for action evolves: poll Media Release

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