Climate change action continues to be an issue of concern in national politics and debate with federal politicians being way more conservative than the general public according to several recent public opinion polls. The polls say that nearly 70 per cent of people want companies to pay for their carbon pollution through some sort of carbon pricing and that the Australian Government should take a leadership role in climate mitigation solutions.
It is perhaps one reason why conservative populist politician Clive Palmer had an inconvenient truth moment with Al Gore this week.
Even last year during the 2013 election campaign a substantial majority of people supported action on climate change with 49.2 per cent supporting to some degree the carbon pricing scheme presently in operation according to the ABC Votecompass survey. Read my analysis: Australian Public opinion on carbon pricing and climate change
Companies should pay for carbon pollution
The latest poll conducted by Reachtel on behalf of WWF indicated over nearly 70 per cent of people wanted companies to pay a carbon price for the carbon pollution they cause, rather than this reduction being funded by the Government and taxpayers through something like the Government's proposed Direct Action Policy and Emissions Reduction Fund.
In regards to what the Senate should do with carbon pricing, 36.2 per cent want the carbon tax abolished, but 33.9 per cent want the present carbon tax scheme set with another 25 per cent of people wanting some form of carbon pricing to continue and be negotiated by the Senate.
The polling also revealed that the most angst by the public surrounds reduction in funding to the states for health and education (25.4%), then the $7 Medical co-payment (23.7%), the Paid parental scheme (PPL) (22.8%), Repeal of the carbon tax (12.4%), Debt levy to high income earners (8.9%), and re-introduction of fuel excise indexation (7%).
WWF-Australia’s Climate Change National Manager Kellie Caught commented in a media release that this poll provided useful advice on what the public wanted for the incoming senators to institute:
“When considering which policies to support and which to reject, Senators should take on board the views of Australians. The majority of Australians want the new Senate to negotiate to keep some form of price on carbon pollution." she said.
Ms Caught highlighted that the existing carbon pricing scheme was already working helping to reduce carbon pollution in the electricity sector of 11 per cent.
“Repealing the carbon price will actually cost the budget at least $18 billion to 2020; that's more than $1400 per taxpaying Australian. If we keep the carbon price we can avoid some of the more unpopular measures,” she said.
As well as this national poll, a seperate poll was undertaken in Clive Palmer's federal electorate of Fairfax on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. This is a conservative electorate which Clive Palmer wrestled from the Liberal Party at the 2013 Federal Election.
Most of the national trends were also repeated in the survey of 912 residents of Fairfax, although more people in Fairfax than nationally were in favour of a 5 per cent emissions target rather than something higher. In the list of budget proposals the Paid parental Leave scheme had much higher opposition in Fairfax. The Debt Levy, carbon tax repeal and Fuel excise were all slightly more prominent than national opposition, while the medicare co-payment and health and education cuts were issues that had more opposition nationally than in the Fairfax electorate.
Climate Institute: Climate pulse of the Nation survey
At the start of this week the Climate Institute released its Climate of the Nation 2014 survey. The report was launched on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra by Jogn Connor, CEO of the Climate Institute and Cathy McGowan, independent MP for Indi.
At the launch John Connor outlined the rebound in support for strong climate action and climate leadership by the Federal Government:
“More Australians think that climate change is occurring and are concerned about various physical impacts, present and future, with an overwhelming majority agree that tackling climate change can create opportunities for new jobs and investment,”
“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. Australians continue to be uncertain, if not cynical, about political parties and their policies on climate change.”
“There is mistrust of both Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten regarding their attitudes on climate change, but particularly Tony Abbott. Yet a clear majority think the Abbott Government should take climate change more seriously.”
“Opposition to carbon pricing has continued to decline and, as in other polls, there is a decline in the minority supporting repeal. 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.”
The key findings of this survey, which has been conducted since 2007 include that 70 per cent of Australians think that climate change is occurring which is an increase by 10 points from 2012. Of those people, 89 per cent think we are experiencing climate change impacts now. More importantly, 61 per cent want Australia to be a leader in climate solutions, up 9 points from 2012.
In terms of leadership most people list the Federal government as most responsible for addressing climate change, but rate its performance very low, with a net negative -18 rating, even lower than in 2012 during the toxic political battles over carbon pricing.
Bad news for Tony Abbott as only 20 per cent of people trust him on climate change, with 53 per cent who do not gave any trust, and 37 per cent who strongly distrust the Prime Minister. A net negative rating of -33. A majority of Australians - 57 per cent - think that the Abbott Government should take climate change more seriously.
But opposition leader Bill Shorten cannot hold his head up in this policy area either. Around 31 per cent trust Bill Shorten when he says he is concerned about climate change, while 32 per cent do not trust him, resulting in a -1 negative rating.
This survey also revealed that for the first time more Australians support carbon pricing laws than oppose them. Over a third (34 per cent) say they support the laws, up 6 points from 2012. Opposition is down 22 points from 2012. Support for the government’s proposed replacement “Direct Action” plan is in the doldrums at 22 per cent.
There is strong support for renewable energy with 70 per cent agreeing tackling climate change creates economic opportunities. The Renewable Energy Target of at least 20 per cent by 2020, or higher, is supported by 71 per cent of people, even when they understand that the RET is a subsidy that increases consumer energy bills. Only 11 per cent think the RET should be exactly 20 per cent.
There is also a message for state governments with 76 per cent of people thinking that state government should be putting in place incentives for more renewable energy, like wind farms. Support for renewables is even stronger in regional and country areas than metropolitan areas.
Solar is chosen by 82 per cent of Australians in their top three energy sources, with wind at 64 per cent, then gas on 28 per cent. Coal at 15 per cent even lags below nuclear on 20 per cent.
Watch the Climate Institute slideshow presentation on the survey:
Lowy Institute: Australian attitudes heating up
The third major survey on climate chaange policy and issue was released by the Lowy Institute on 4 June 2014. ‘After successive polls revealed declining concern about climate change between 2006 and 2012, this year’s Poll shows that the trend-line has turned, and that Australians’ concern about climate change is now on the rise’, said Alex Oliver, Director of the Poll.
Concern is up 5 points since 2013 and 9 points since 2012 with 45 per cent of Australian adults now saying that ‘global warming is a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs’.
While the Climate Institute survey indicated 61 per cent of people should be taking a leadership role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the Lowy Institute survey found 63 per cent of this action. Only 28 per cent wanted to wait for international action with just 7 per cent saying the government should do nothing.
Younger people are more likely to consider climate change a more serious and pressing issue.
"Australians under 45 years are more likely to regard global warming as ‘a serious and pressing problem’ (51%) compared with 40% of those 45 years and older. Education is also a factor, with only 37% of those with Year 11 or lower education choosing the most serious option, compared with 50% of those with Year 12 or higher education.... A very substantial 70% of adults aged 18-44 years say that Australia should take a leadership role, compared with 56% of those aged 45 and older." says the report.
There you have it. On climate change it is our many of our politicians who are dinosaurs on this issue, and holding back substantial action.
- WWF commissioned Reachtel survey media release, 25 June 2014 - ublic poll shows polluter pays approach most popular
- Climate Institute Media release 23 June 2014 - Australians are no climate dinosaurs as support for action evolves: poll
- Climate Institute report, 23 June 2014 - Climate of the Nation 2014 Are Australians climate dinosaurs?
- Lowy Institute media release, 2 June 2014 - Australian attitudes heating up about climate change, 2014 Lowy Institute Poll finds
- Lowy Institute, 2 June 2014 - Lowy Institute Poll 2014