Climate rally November 2013, Melbourne

23 June 2014 — The anti-climate backlash is over. A new survey from the Climate Institute this morning (Monday) has confirmed the trend reported by the Lowy Institute climate poll in early June to show a strong rebound in support for action on climate – and even for Australia to take a lead.

The news is a vindication of optimists in the sustainability industry who have forecast that the federal government’s attacks on renewable energy, the environment and even energy efficiency – in order to support the fossil fuel industry – would not stop the overriding global trends of urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and greater overall sustainability.

Both polls have found an almost identical result: a surge of about 10 per cent in support for climate action and for Australia’s lead in climate action over the past two years.

Climate rally Adelaide, November 2013

The Climate Institute found 70 per cent of Australians think that climate change is occurring, up 10 points from 2012. Interestingly, an “overwhelming majority” of those polled, 89 per cent, think climate change is here already and 61 per cent want Australia to be a leader in climate solutions, up nine points from 2012.

Climate Institute chief executive John Connor said Climate of the Nation 2014 showed “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”.

However, there was mistrust of the leaders of both major political parties on the issue.

“Australians continue to be uncertain, if not cynical, about political parties and their policies on climate change,” Mr Connor said.

Opposition to carbon pricing had continued to decline, Mr Connor said, and there was a decline in the minority supporting repeal.

Climate rally, Brisbane November 2013

“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,” Mr Connor said.

The survey was conducted by JWS Research on 16-20 May 2014 among 1145 Australians aged 18 years or more.

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 nine 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 six 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 eight 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.

Similarly to the Climate Institute the Lowy Institute found a rise in concern on global warming, up five points since 2013 and nine points since 2012, albeit with fewer, 45 per cent, of Australian adults who now say that “global warming is a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs”.

Director of the Lowy Institute poll Alex Oliver said that after successive polls showed a decline in concern about climate change between 2006 and 2012, the “trend-line has turned and Australians’ concern about climate change is now on the rise”.

“What’s even more striking about these results is that most Australians have very strong views on the leadership role their government should take on climate change,” Ms Oliver said.