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 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 on June 23 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 from 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.