Three new studies show that Australians are growing increasingly concerned about climate change, with almost eight out of ten Australians accepting the scientific evidence that our climate is changing. There is also strong and growing support for more government action on climate change and measures to increase renewable energy and phase out coal.
Growing concern about climate change and its impacts
The surveys, Climate of the Nation 2018, published by the Australia Institute (TAI) in September 2018, The Australian Survey into Beliefs and Attitudes towards Science, published by National Centre for Public Awareness of Science (CPAS) in June 2018 and the 2018 Lowy Institute Poll, also June 2018, highlight a consistent upward trend in concern about climate change.
Almost eight in ten Australians believe that climate change is occurring (79.8% according to CPAS survey and 76% according to the TAI poll) and this number has increased since 2017.
In fact, attitudes to climate change have seen some of the most dramatic shifts of any area, according to the Lowy Institute Poll, with concern at its highest level in a decade. In 2018, almost 60% of respondents agree that global warming is a serious and pressing problem and that we should be taking steps now, even if this involves significant costs. This has increased from 36% in 2012.
Concern about specific climate change impacts has grown by 4-5% since 2017 (TAI). The top three impacts of concern were that more droughts and flooding will affect crop production and food supply (78% concerned), destruction of the Great Barrier Reef (77% concerned) and more bushfires (76% concerned).
Very strong support for more government action
More than half of Australians think that governments aren’t doing enough on climate change, with 68% supporting state government incentives for renewable energy and 62% supporting plans to phase out coal-fired power stations (TAI). 67% said that the transition from coal should occur within the next 20 years. Almost two thirds of Australians (68%) support setting domestic targets to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.
An astounding 84% of Australians agree that “the government should focus on renewables, even if this means we may need to invest more in infrastructure to make the system more reliable” (Lowy Institute).
Causes of climate change
Of those who believe that our climate is changing, two thirds believe that global warming is caused mostly because of human activity, a noticeable increase on the 2017 survey of just over half (CPAS). Drilling down on the reasons given, more people cite the negative effects of human activity and the scientific evidence than in previous years.
According to the Climate of the Nation research, Australians underestimate the number of people who believe humans are the main cause of climate change and overestimate the number of climate sceptics (TAI), with 56% of Australians citing humans as the main cause of climate change, compared with a perception that only 47% believe this.
Looking at these polls in combination, it’s clear that government action on climate change is lagging behind the expectations of the Australian community.