Climate change remains potent political issue Media Release

Apr 14, 2008 - 4:22am

The Climate Institute today launched its second annual Climate of the Nation report – a comprehensive review of public attitudes on climate change and support for climate action.

The report primarily details research into the attitudes of Australians since the 2007 federal election. It demonstrates that concern has crystallised into solid support for action - but that there is growing scepticism towards the major political parties and their ability to deliver.

“In the aftermath of the world’s first ‘climate change’ election, public concern and hunger for action remains high,” Climate Institute CEO Mr Connor said.

“The majority of Australians (52 per cent) are unable to discern between the two major parties on climate change, meaning political ‘brand ownership’ of climate leadership remains up for grabs.

“With the Coalition retreating to just 7 per cent (from 15 per cent) over the last year, the Coalition has much to do if it is to accommodate public support for this proven vote switching issue,” Mr Connor said.

Other key findings of the report include: 

  • Concern for climate change remains at high levels.  Nine of 10 Australians (89 per cent) are now concerned about climate change, with half (49 per cent) being either extremely concerned (17 per cent) or very concerned (32 per cent).
  • For most people, ratifying Kyoto is just one part of Australia’s continuing response to climate change.  Almost eight of every 10 Australians (78 per cent) believe that, despite Australia having ratified Kyoto, we still need to take further urgent action to deal with climate change.  While 17 per cent have no opinion, only 5 per cent disagree that urgent action is still required.
  • Australians are most concerned about the impact of climate change on drought (64 per cent very concerned and 30 per cent concerned), and the consequence of less water for cities (60 per cent very concerned and 33 per cent concerned). Other particular concerns include loss of the Great Barrier Reef , impacts on agriculture and increased bushfires and storms

Mr Connor said that strong domestic targets are favoured by a clear majority of Australians.

“More than three quarters of Australians (78 per cent) believe that we should reverse growing levels of greenhouse pollution to achieve real reductions by 2012,” Mr Connor said.

“Further, 74 per cent believe that new electricity generation should come from clean energy,” Mr Connor said.



Better party for managing climate change

  • While 40 per cent of Australians believe that the ALP is better at handling climate change, the majority (52 per cent) are not prepared to rate either party as best.
  • Only 7 per cent of people are prepared to nominate the Coalition as the better party on climate change 
  • Performance of the Federal Government on key areas
  • The new Government was rated by more than half of Australians (55 per cent )as having had a good or very good performance on climate change.
  • Priorities for the Federal Government
  • There is solid interest in the government maintaining climate change as a high priority during its first three years in office.  Eight of 10 people (80 per cent) want to see the government give climate change a very high priority (33 per cent) or a high priority (47 per cent) in their first three years in office. 
  • Only 16 per cent believe that it should receive a low priority for government action.
  • Level of concern about climate change
  • Concern for climate change remains high. Nine out of 10 Australians (89 per cent) are concerned about climate change, with half (49 per cent) being either extremely concerned (17 per cent) or very concerned (32 per cent).
  • Only three per cent of Australians are “not at all” concerned about the issue, and a further nine per cent are “not very concerned”.
  • Need to make changes to reduce climate change
  • There is considerable community support for both personal and government action to deal with climate change.
  • Government action is supported by 97 per cent of Australians, with 84 per cent believing that Governments should make either very large changes (38 per cent) or large changes (46 per cent).
  • Further, 94 per cent of Australians now recognize that they need to make changes in their own lives to prevent further climate changes.

Effect on the economy of addressing climate change

  • Only 15 per cent of Australians believe that addressing climate change “will definitely hurt the economy and jobs”.
  • However, almost half of Australians (46 per cent) are unsure about the effect that addressing climate change will have on the economy and jobs.

Significance at 2007 Federal Election

  • Climate Change was the second highest most distinguishing policy area for ALP voters in the November poll (70 per cent behind industrial relations 81 per cent).

Climate of the Nation Report

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