Few people would recognise respiratory failure as a critical threat to their health without also placing Covid-19 – an amplifier of respiratory failure – in the same category. Yet, this is essentially the way many Australians view climate change and its impacts, according to the 2020 Lowy Institute Poll.
While “drought and water shortages” and “environmental disasters such as bushfires and floods” are considered critical threats by 77% and 67% of the Australian population, respectively, only 59% say the same of climate change. We know that global warming is amplifying Australia’s risk of severe drought and bushfires along with other extreme weather events and rising sea levels. This disconnect presents us with a puzzle.