Australians want better leadership, more action on climate change: survey

A majority of Australians believe climate change is real and happening now and want more action taken by the Federal Government to address environmental issues contributing to the change, according to the latest Ipsos Climate Change Report 2016.

The vast majority of Australians believe that climate change is real, and happening now. In 2016, two-in five (42%) believe that human activity is ‘mainly or entirely’ responsible for climate change, whereas one in ten (10%) believe that climate change is ‘mainly or entirely’ caused by natural processes, and 4% deny its existence.

Since 2013, climate change has been a top priority for Australians, however in 2016 it had a significant jump with more than two-in-five Australians (43%) believing it to be a top priority for action. This year climate change hit its highest level of concern rating, at 47%, that Ipsos has measured to date.

The annual Ipsos Climate Change Report 2016 is the 10th consecutive year that Ipsos has asked Australians their views on environmental topics with a focus on climate change. The research was conducted among a nationally representative sample of more than 1,000 Australians.

Almost seven in ten Australians (67%) agree that climate change poses a serious threat to our way of life over the next 100 years. More than half (59%) said that Australia should be doing more to address climate change, while 65% said other countries should be doing more.

“Over the last three years consistently almost one in every two Australians agrees with the statement ‘I would vote in favour of a proposal to spend tax payers’ money on projects designed to fight climate change’. The Federal Government, at 37%, continues to be identified as most responsible for taking action, followed by the international community, at 19%,” Ipsos Research Director Stuart Clark said.

“Also, Australians do not believe anyone is doing a particularly good job of addressing climate change. Of the four groups we tested, state governments appeared to be doing best, 20% rated their performance as good, followed by the international community and the Federal Government, both at 18%, and finally business/ industry, at 15%.”

Australians are divided, however, on the economic impact of action on climate change with a third (33%) believing that the Australian Government should be tackling climate change regardless of the impact on economic growth, while 36% think the government should take whatever actions necessary to deal with climate change, but only if it does not harm economic growth.

“Perhaps the question of whether action should be taken at economic cost is too simplistic. A study undertaken by researchers at Stanford University found that temperature change due to climate change could leave global GDP per capita 23% lower in 2100 1 , an indication that not only Australia’s economy but also the global economy could, in fact, be harmed if we do not take action. Therefore, like the rest of the international community, Australia may find that in order to avoid long-term pain, action on climate change must be taken sooner rather than later,” Clark said.

Renewable energy, water and river health and illegal waste dumping are the top three environmental issues identified by Australians. Renewable energy has topped the list of environmental issues for the last five years and it is up three percentage points in 2016, to 55%.

Other environmental issues Australians have identified as top six priorities are deforestation (44%) and sustainability (43%).

The top phenomena nominated by Australians for causing climate change is ‘greenhouse gas emissions from industry’ (60%), which has consistently rated as the top cause every year. Rounding out the top five causes were the ‘burning of fossil fuels’ (58%), ‘deforestation’ (53%), ‘motor vehicle emissions’ (51%) and ‘air pollution’ (50%).

The report also found that Australians believe that environmental events such as more frequent and extreme droughts, storm events, bushfires, floods and the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef were caused by climate change.

Australians are also more willing to pay more for products and services that reduce their environmental impact, which at 42% is the highest since Ipsos started measuring.

The Ipsos Climate Change Report can be found here.

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