Sick of the politics, scared on the costs but there to be convinced Media Release

Jul 24, 2012 - 10:00am

To access the full report, video vox pop, factsheets and slide deck visit the Climate of the Nation project page here.

Australians are confused about climate science and unconvinced about carbon pricing solutions but are still ‘up for grabs’ on both, according to key findings from Climate of the Nation 2012, Australia’s most comprehensive public climate attitudes research report, released today by The Climate Institute.

“Party politics and cost scares have taken their toll but a strong majority (69 per cent) still accepts humans are at least partly driving climate change and broader anxiety about climate impacts point to support for climate action being up for grabs,” said John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute.   

“One thing that’s clear is that Australians’ vision for a low-carbon future is one that taps into the nation’s abundant renewable energy resource. There is overwhelming support for renewables, especially solar and wind, as well as energy efficiency measures for industry and households with coal less popular than nuclear in the ideal energy mix.”

Climate of the Nation 2012 starts an annual mid-year benchmarking research into public attitudes. It is a mix of national qualitative (focus groups) and national quantitative (poll) research conducted in April-May 2012*.

“Our research was carried out at a time of highly politicized and poorly informed debate preceding the start of the carbon laws. Some of these findings are concerning but not surprising and set out policy and communication challenges on solutions, impacts and opportunities,” said Connor.

“Delving deeper, there is a wealth of concern for impacts and readiness for action. We found that even amidst all the political noise, Australians are ‘doing their bit’ to address their environmental footprint. But they are looking to government and business to lead and do more on reducing carbon pollution.”

Other key findings include:
  • Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) agreed that climate change is occurring, although almost a fifth (19 per cent) were unsure. A fifth agreed that humans are the main cause, with 49 per cent saying it was due to a mixture of human causes and natural cycles.  
  • A majority of Australians (54 per cent) are concerned about climate change. This has dropped in terms of breadth and intensity over time, but there is still only around 10 per cent who see no need for action.
  • Climate impacts of highest concern were: A more polluted Australia and destruction of the Great Barrier Reef (79 per cent each), more droughts affecting crop production and food supply (78 per cent), and animal and plant species becoming extinct (75 per cent).
  • Eighty one per cent placed solar energy within their top three preferred energy options. Wind was the second most preferred option with 59 per cent. Two-thirds (66 per cent) placed coal in their least preferred three options, slightly more than nuclear at 64 per cent. Opinion on gas was divided, with 28 per cent having it in their top three and 31 per cent in their bottom three.
  • Almost two-thirds (66 per cent) thought there are too many conflicting opinions for the public to be sure about the claims made around climate change. +        Australians don’t think business and the media are doing a good job at addressing climate change. They get net disapproval ratings of 21 and 22 respectively, a rate far worse than the Federal Government’s at minus 6.
  • Support for the carbon pricing laws of 28 per cent (52 per cent opposition) rises to 47 per cent (with only 29 per cent opposition) when it is explained that all the revenue raised goes to support households, business and development of renewable energy.
  • Labor (28 per cent) is twice as credible as the Coalition (14 per cent) on their emission reduction plans, but both are at low levels.
  • Less than half of respondents (44 per cent) thought the Coalition would repeal the carbon laws, if elected.

Connor concluded: “How these attitudes mix with underlying motivational drivers, views of quality as well as cost of living, and trust in messengers will determine the climate of the nation in coming months and years. There are certainly powerful benchmarks to look for in our mid-2013 report.”

More detail on the key findings of Climate of the Nation 2012 can be found in the report’s executive summary as well as in factsheets on demographic highlights (including regional variations) and ideal energy mix scenarios. These materials as well as the full report, case study interviews with participants and ‘word on the street’ videos recorded in Sydney, can be found at

For more information
John Connor | CEO, The Climate Institute | 0413 968 475
Kristina Stefanova | Communications Director, The Climate Institute | 0407 004 037

*Discussion groups were held between the end of April and the beginning of May in Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, Ballarat and Perth. The national online survey of 1,131 Australians was conducted from 23-30 May.

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