Aug 24, 2015 - 1:29pm
This article first appeared in Climate Access on 21 August 2
Strategic Partnerships & Communications Director, The Climate Institute
When Australia announced its initial post-2020 emissions reduction target last week, it made headlines around the world and at home - as one of the lowest targets among developed nations.
Attempting to find a metric by which the target looked less weak, the Australian government has claimed that its target offers the highest per capita percentage reduction in the developed world. This is not entirely true; at any rate, even in per capita terms Australians would still emit more than almost every other advanced economy in 2030.
It’s unlikely that most Australians were fooled. Results of Climate of the Nation 2015 research launched ahead of the announcement found that nearly two-thirds of Australians (63 per cent) think the Abbott government should take climate change more seriously, up 6 points from 2014.
On Australia’s target specifically, a majority (51 per cent) agreed that the government should base the target on what the science says is necessary to avoid extremely dangerous global warming. Barely a fifth wanted to follow other countries’ examples: the US got 2 per cent), China 3 per cent, and European nations like the UK and Germany 5 per cent. Some 11 per cent thought that Australia should follow a similar path as other “resource countries like Canada” and just over a quarter (27 per cent) were unsure.
The rally behind the science is backed by an important strengthening of those accepting human causation. A steady majority who agree that climate change is occurring (70 per cent, same as last year but up from 64 per cent in 2012.) Among those that accept climate change is occurring, 89 per cent now also think that humans are at least partly the cause for climate change, up 5 points from last year. And there has been a significant increase in those that accept humans as “the main cause” of current climate change: 41 per cent, up 21 points from 2012.
And Australians don’t think of this as a future issue, among those who agree that climate change is occurring, more think that the impacts are being felt now - 93 per cent, up 4 points from last year.
Sixty-nine per cent now agree that ignoring climate change is simply not an answer, as it increases the risk of the situation getting worse, up 5 points from last year. Over two thirds (67 per cent) think that governments need to regulate carbon pollution.
Australians’ preferred solution to climate change is indisputably renewable energy. Support for solar, wind and hydro has grown. When presented with eight energy sources to choose from, 84 per cent of respondents placed solar within their top three preferred options, up 2 points from 2014. Wind came in second, with 69 per cent, up 5 points from last year. This is a remarkable finding in the face of continued attacks on renewable energy in general, and wind in particular.
Coal and nuclear continue to be least preferred.
Nearly three in four agree that it is inevitable that the nation’s current coal-fired generation will need to be replaced. About the same proportion (72 per cent) agree that governments need to implement a plan to ensure the orderly closure of old coal plants and their replacement with clean energy.
Whether the government takes the messages from this polling -- which echoes numerous other polls in the last year -- remains to be seen. The findings certainly provide an opportunity to better reflect public sentiment in more ambitious policy-making.
Kristina has more than a decade of experience working with public and private sector stakeholders on a variety of partnership models, and in communications in Australia, the US, UK and across regions.
Kristina has worked for the World Bank, US Agency for International Development, UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, and the Global CCS Institute. She has also helped start-up a leading environmental markets investment and advisory business in Australia, and -- in a previous professional life -- was a print journalist in Washington DC.
Kristina holds an MsC from the London School of Economics.