Published on July 19, 2013
1 The Climate Institute Climate of the Nation 2013
2 “In mid 2013, we find that two-thirds of Australians think that climate change is occurring and almost all of them believe that it is impacting Australia now…People are genuinely worried about the cost impacts of extreme weather and climate change.” John Connor CEO, The Climate Institute Climate of the Nation 2013 This presentation summarises The Climate Institute’s report, Climate of the Nation 2013, which benchmarks public attitudes on climate change. The report draws on qualitative (focus groups) research and nationally representative quantitative (poll) research conducted in early June 2013. Images: Michael Hall, Creative Fellow of The Climate Institute July 2013
3 Background Since 2007, The Climate Institute has conducted comprehensive research into Australian attitudes to climate change and related policies, published via its Climate of the Nation reports. This year’s report builds off a quantitative poll conducted in early June and rolling qualitative research between September 2012 and May 2013. The 2012 research was conducted in the heat of the toxic debate leading up to the introduction of the carbon laws and serves to benchmark current views.
4 Key Findings 87% of people who think that climate change is occurring believe that Australia is feeling the impacts of climate change today. 87% of people place solar energy in their top three choices for energy sources; 67% have wind in their top three. 71% agree that tackling climate change creates new jobs and investment in clean energy 66% of people think that climate change is occurring. 58% of people think Australia should be a leader in finding solutions to climate change; up 6% from 2012 43% think that now that carbon pricing has been introduced, it should be given a chance to work for at least a few years. 26% think Labor has an effective climate plan; 19% think the Coalition does.
5 • Two-thirds of Australians think that climate change is occurring and almost all of them believe that it is impacting Australia now. • People are genuinely worried about the cost impacts of extreme weather and climate change on everyday concerns such as crop production and food supply, insurance premiums, water shortages and climate refugees. • Climate change is not perceived as a major issue in this election, but it is also clear that there is no basis from which to call the election a “referendum on the carbon tax”. • Only around a third of Australians think that the carbon laws should be repealed and more oppose a double dissolution to get rid of them than support one. In fact the “carbon tax” itself is not a major reason for supporting a Coalition vote. “Economic mismanagement”, “lies and incompetence” and the “carbon tax lie” are cited as far stronger reasons. • Opposition to carbon pricing is dropping. While support remains soft, it strengthens significantly when the policy is explained. • A year into the laws, there is evidence that Australians do not believe that carbon pricing has been as financially detrimental as they anticipated. This holds true at both the household and national level. • More people want to give carbon pricing a go than get rid of it. Key Findings
6 • More Australians want greater action and leadership than in recent years. • More people than in recent years agree that Australia should be a world leader in finding solutions to climate change is significantly higher, and in fact higher than in April 2010, immediately prior to the deferral of emissions trading legislation. • Despite the toxic politics, 60 per cent still think the Federal Government should be playing a leading role. Only 6-8 per cent of Australians believe that local, state or federal government should take no action. • Strong majorities recognise that doing nothing on climate change will increase the risks and that there are economic opportunities in acting in areas like renewable energy. Significantly, appreciation of the economic benefits and jobs associated with a strong renewable energy industry is not contingent on acceptance of climate change, or even that humans are responsible for it. • Despite some attacks on renewable energy, wind in particular, there is overwhelming support for renewables. That enthusiasm is high across Labor, Green and Coalition voters. • Support this year is even stronger for wind and solar as preferred energy sources. Support for both nuclear and coal has declined, while Australians remain divided over gas. • Results from the focus groups and national poll behind Climate of the Nation 2013 indicate a clear acceptance that climate change is happening and that humans are contributing to it. Twice as many trust the science than don’t. Key Findings
7 The majority of Australians remain concerned about climate change, although it is not a top priority for voters this election year. Attitudes to climate change The key issues Australians want their government to focus on in mid-2013 are addressing the high cost of living (69%) and the economy and jobs (62%). Climate change was on the list back in 2007. While climate change isn’t a key issue, the majority of Australians (53%) continue to be concerned about climate change. • Women are more concerned about climate change than men (56% vs. 50%). • Concern drops with age. While 55% of Australians aged 18-34 are concerned, that proportion drops to 53% among those 35-54 years of age and 51% among those 55 and older.
8 What’s your top priority? This graphic is made up of priority topics as listed by participants in focus groups for Climate of the Nation 2013 research, held in metropolitan Brisbane and Western Sydney in late May. The size of the words indicates how frequently they were mentioned.
9 A large majority believe that climate change is occurring, caused at least in part by man, and most think the impact is already being felt in Australia Attitudes to climate change A majority of Australians (66%, up 2 points since 2012) continue to believe that climate change is occurring. Only 15% (down 2 points) deny it. Among those who believe climate change is occurring, 87% believe that Australia is feeling the impacts of climate change. Of those who believe climate change is occurring, 87% think that humans are complicit. • 18-34 year olds are more likely to believe that humans are the main cause (38% vs. 33% among 35-54 year olds and 26% among 55+ year olds) • Green voters (55%) are most likely to think humans are at least in part to blame, followed by Labor voters (38%), and Coalition voters (24%). The majority (57%) of Australians think that climate change poses a serious threat to our way of life over the coming decades. This concern rises to 63% among 18-34 year olds.
10 Australians are confused about the science of climate change Attitudes to climate change A majority (60%) agree there are too many conflicting opinions for the public to be sure about claims made around climate change; only 18% disagree. Trust rust in the science behind climate change remains relatively low, with less than 1 in 2 (46%) Australians reporting that they trust the science. Some 39% of Australians believe that the seriousness of climate change is exaggerated. • Men are more likely to believe it is exaggerated (45%) than women (35%). • Older Australians aged 55+ are more likely to believe it is exaggerated (45%) than 18-34 year olds (34%). • 56% of Coalition voters believe climate change is exaggerated.
11 Concerns What concerns us most about climate change? Climate change is no longer considered a future issue. A majority of Australians feel that climate change is impacting their nation already.
12 Addressing climate change Solar, wind and hydro are Australian’s most preferred energy sources. Australians overwhelmingly support renewable energy both in terms of emission reduction and in ideal energy mix. 87% prefer solar energy. • Views on solar are divergent among sexes. It is the most preferred energy source among women, 93% of who ranked it as top choice compared to 80% of men. Wind energy is second preferred. • Again views differentiated among the sexes with women being bigger supporters. 73% of women ranked wind as their second preferred energy source, compared to 60% of men. • Despite vigorous campaigns against wind in some of the regions, wind is in fact more popular in regional areas (70%) than in cities (65%).
13 71% of people see new jobs and investment in clean energy resulting from Australia acting on climate change.
14 Addressing climate change Addressing climate change via renewable energy is seen as a win-win for Australia’s own energy usage and its economic well-being. The top three policies ranked as “most effective” in addressing climate change are: increasing the proportion of renewables into Australia’s energy mix; increasing energy efficiency of industry; and increasing energy efficiency of households. 63% think that responding to climate change presents a unique economic opportunity for Australia in the development and sale of renewable energy technology. 71% think that tackling climate change creates opportunities for new jobs and investment and renewable energy. Just under a third (29%) of Australians think Australia’s renewable energy target (RET) is just right. But more (40%) think that it should be higher. • Young people are the most supportive (43%) of a higher RET, with the proportion of support dropping to 41% among those aged 35-54, and 35% among Australians over 55 years of age.
15 Addressing climate change Views on carbon pricing + While support for carbon pricing is not strong, opposition has diminished significantly. There is a willingness to give carbon pricing a go. + The proportion of Australians who strongly disagree with the statement “I support the carbon pricing laws” has dropped to 20 per cent, down from 30 per cent in 2012, but only 28 per cent agree with the statement. + Support improves if carbon pricing is explained. A majority (51 per cent) “would support carbon pricing if all the money raised goes to support low and middle income households and Australian businesses and renewable energy investment.” + Today, despite the toxic politics, more Australians think that having carbon pricing is better than not taking action (42 per cent), compared to those (26 per cent) who disagree.
16 Addressing climate change Views on carbon pricing + Only a third (37 per cent) of Australians believe that the Coalition should repeal carbon pricing if it is elected to government at the next Federal election. That is down from 48 per cent in an Ipsos poll of late May 2012. + There is no mandate for a double dissolution if the Coalition fails to get the carbon laws abolished, with considerably more people against a double dissolution election (43 per cent) than for one (34 per cent).
17 Business views “A carbon price with cost effective complementary measures is critical to reducing Australia‟s emissions.” AECOM National Business Survey + Business views are even more entrenched in favour of a carbon price than those of the general public. + A national survey covering a broad range of sectors, including liable entities, found that 99 per cent of respondents agreed that Australia should aim to reduce its carbon emissions, with 87 per cent saying they strongly agreed. + When asked whether they supported a price-based mechanism to reduce carbon emissions, 65 per cent of respondents indicated support for an emissions trading scheme with a floating price, while a carbon tax with a fixed price was supported by 29 per cent.
18 Voice of the people GRANT IRVING, BYRON BAY What are your views on the carbon tax? I like the carbon tax because I think it’s gonna have to keep them … responsible for what they do. And if the carbon tax is gonna stop them from making stuff [that pollutes], then that’s good. SIOBHAN JAMISON, SYDNEY What are your views on the carbon tax? I really don’t know that much about it … They are giving us small options to say that they are doing something, but they are really not doing enough with how much climate change is happening. So they need to do more. GARY DUNN, URALLA What are your views on the carbon tax? I think there are other ways to tax. The carbon tax hasn’t helped at all. In June, photographer Michael Hall asked people around Sydney and rural NSW what they think about the „carbon tax‟. Here is what they said.
19 Responsibility The federal government and international alliances such as the UN are identified as the groups most responsible for leading on climate action. Both groups, but especially the Federal government, are expected to inspire others to take action. Nearly two-thirds (60%) of Australians think that the Federal Government should be taking a leading role in taking action on climate change. Half (51%) think that global alliances and groups such as the United Nations should be responsible for leadership on climate action. Only 6% of Australians thought that the Federal government should not take action, and only 7%t thought that there is no leadership role for international alliances. In focus groups, participants identify a global, legally binding effort as the only way in which climate change will ever truly be addressed.
20 Responsibility Who is responsible, and is their performance up to par?
21 Leadership Australians have a bigger appetite for their nation to be a leader on finding solutions to climate change than in previous years. 58% share this view this year, up 6 points form last year and on the up swing for the first time since 2008. Last year, 37% of people felt Australia shouldn’t act until other large emitters like China or the US do. This year ambition is stronger, with only 28% of people feeling that Australia shouldn’t act until others do. Nearly half of Australians (46%) agree that a 25% reduction on Australia’s 2000 greenhouse emissions by 2020 is achievable and affordable. That’s up from a third (33%) last year. 62% think that ignoring climate change is simply not an answer anymore.
22 Doing my bit • Australians look to governments and business for leadership on climate change but they also believe that the response to climate change starts at home. • Australians feel a personal responsibility - “doing my bit” - when it comes to contributing to climate change action. 65% believe that individuals can contribute to addressing climate change. • In terms of the most effective personal actions, Australians rank planting trees and insulating their homes as the most effective. These actions were followed in popularity by installing solar panels and recycling. Putting the ‘I’ in climate change
23 Voice of the people GRANT IRVING, BYRON BAY What causes climate change? Humans. What would you do if you had the power to mitigate climate change? Stop creating plastics. SIOBHAN JAMISON, SYDNEY What causes climate change? It’s an issue namely because of society’s way of using things and putting them away…all that stuff going to waste…so I think it’s us to blame. What would you do if you had the power to mitigate climate change? If I were in charge I’d have more changes, like better public transport and those kinds of things. More recycling. Less products using plastic, get rid of it … keep it all nice and clean. GARY DUNN, URALLA What causes climate change? A combination of deforestation, probably a fair bit. But it has to do a lot with the burning of coal and other fuels. What would you do if you had the power to mitigate climate change? We need the whole world to cooperate. We can’t have China building coal power stations and everything and sending Australia broke and closing everything down, because we can’t burn any fuels here. So we have to get everyone worldwide to comply. In June, photographer Michael Hall asked people around Sydney and rural NSW what they think about climate change and how they would address the problem. Here is what they said.
24 What portion of climate change is due to human activity? In mid-June, we asked some 40 people around Sydney whether they thought that humans were contributing to climate change. These were their responses. Videos documenting their views in full can be viewed at vimeo.com/TheClimateInstitute Vox
25 More information Visit www.climateinstitute.org.au/ climate-of-the-nation-2013.html Or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter for the latest news on global climate action… www.facebook.com/theclimateinstitute www.twitter.com/climateinstitut
Climate of the Nation 2013 benchmarks Australian attitudes to climate change, related policies and solutions. In mid-2013 the report found that two-thirds ...
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