Wednesday , November 25 2020

Climate change is worrying more Australians than ever before, an Australian Institute report reveals

Despite global pandemic headlines, concern about the impact of climate change is at an all-time high in Australia, with 80 per cent of people thinking that we are already experiencing problems caused by climate change and 83 per cent supporting shut down coal power. stations.

In addition, 71 per cent of Australians now believe that Australia should be a world leader on climate action, according to the Australian Institute’s Nation’s Climate report, which has been tracking Australia’s attitudes to climate change since 2007.

The flagship think tank polled nearly 2,000 adults over a week in July.

He said the results showed that Australians want a fast transition to a zero-emissions economy.

“Our research shows that, far from easing the call for climate action, the COVID-19 crisis has strengthened Australia’s decision for all levels of government to take action on climate change,” said Richie Merzian of the Australian Institute.

This year, more respondents have agreed that climate change is “happening” than at any other time in the survey’s history, with 79 percent agreeing with the statement.

Chart shows a dramatic increase from 20% in 2013 to 79% in 2020 responding 'yes', they believe climate change is happening
The number of respondents who agree that climate change is “happening” is higher than at any other time in the survey’s history.(ABC News)

While the number of people who say they are “concerned” about climate change has remained steady for the past three years, an increasing number of people believe we are experiencing the effects of climate change “a lot “- up from 33 percent in 2016 to 48 percent this year.

A graph compares responses to the question 'how much do you experience the effects of climate change?'
The number of respondents saying they are already experiencing the effects of climate change has increased in recent years.(ABC News)

Bushfires had the biggest impact respondents were concerned about, jumping from 76 percent last year to 82 percent this year.

That was followed by the drought, extinction and destruction of the Great Barrier Reef, all with about 80 percent of people expressing concern.

Rebecca Colvin, from the Australian National University, is researching public attitudes to climate change. He said the poll showed that COVID-19 had not made people forget about climate change.

“I think it’s a surprise,” he said.

Voting polls

The results came just weeks after the Lowy Foundation released climate change voting that showed a drop in another measure of concern: the number of people who said we should act now, even if it came at a significant cost.

Dr Colvin said the results told both sides of the same story.

“We have an extraordinary level of scientific consensus on climate change and the weight of public opinion, highlighting the need to take action on climate change,” he said.

“What I take from the combination of the two is that the Lowy Foundation survey shows that our resources are thin in the immediate term because of the recession and COVID – but it’s not like climate change has. ‘ to remove from the agenda altogether. “

In the Lowy opinion poll, despite a decline in the number of people who encouraged action even if it was high cost, concerns about some climate effects were at record levels.

“Drought and water scarcity” and “environmental disasters like bus fires and floods” were considered vital threats by 77 percent and 67 percent of people, respectively. That was despite only 59 per cent saying the same thing about climate change itself.

Dr Colvin said that could be due to people seeing the directness of the effects of climate change – but not being able to see the cause: an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.

Energy misconceptions

With electricity generation, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia, an Australian Institute survey explored Australia’s attitudes towards energy.

It found that support for renewable energy had risen over the past year, and support for coal, gas and nuclear declined or remained stable.

Fifty-two percent of respondents believed that coal-fired power stations should be phased out, while 31 percent thought they should be phased out as soon as possible, even if that costs more.

The Government has trumpeted plans for a “gas-led” economic recovery from the COVID-19 recession, so the survey looked at public knowledge and attitudes towards gas.

The survey found that Australians greatly overestimated the number of jobs in the gas industry, believing that about 8 per cent of Australian jobs come from the sector. But the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggests that only 0.2 per cent of all jobs are related to oil and gas extraction.

The response reflected similar results on the public’s overestimation of the number of jobs in the coal industry, which has remained constant since last year.

“When it comes to employment in the gas industry, Australians overestimate the gas workforce by a factor of 40,” Mr Merzian said.

When it came to action on climate change, the poll found that 63 percent of Australians believed governments were not doing enough, and half believed fossil fuel producers should pay for more action.

There was a jump in support for Australia to go further than other countries, with 71 per cent saying Australia should be a world leader – up from 62 per cent last year.

And 68 per cent of respondents agreed that Australia should have a net-zero emissions target by 2050 – something that is already in place in the UK and New Zealand.

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