Climate Change and Energy
CONCERN ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING
Attitudes about climate change have been undergoing a dramatic reversal over the past six years. In a tracking question asked since 2006, the number of Australians who say that ‘global warming is a serious and pressing problem [and] we should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs’ has risen steadily from a low of 36% in 2012 to its current level, where 59% now take this view. This is an increase of 23 points since 2012. It remains nine points lower, however, than the peak of concern recorded in 2006 when 68% expressed this view. Around a third (31%) say ‘the problem of global warming should be addressed, but its effects will be gradual, so we can deal with the problem gradually by taking steps that are low in cost’. Only 10% in 2018 (down from 19% in 2011) say that ‘until we are sure that global warming is really a problem, we should not take any steps that would have economic costs’.
Despite recent debate and political rhetoric, most Australians have not been persuaded to support coal over renewables for the nation’s energy security. Almost all Australians remain in favour of renewables, rather than coal, as an energy source. In 2018, 84% (up three points since 2017) say ‘the government should focus on renewables, even if this means we may need to invest more in infrastructure to make the system more reliable’. Only 14% say ‘the government should focus on traditional energy sources such as coal and gas, even if this means the environment may suffer to some extent’. Even among those who take the most sceptical view about global warming (the 10% who say ‘until we are sure that global warming is really a problem, we should not take any steps that would have economic costs’), 40% favour a focus on renewables. Nine in ten of the rest support a focus on renewables rather than coal, as do 72% of Liberal-National Party supporters.
These attitudes are consistent with previous findings of the Lowy Institute Poll on Australians’ preference for alternative energy sources. In 2016, most Australians (88%) agreed that ‘the use of fossil fuels is in decline around the world and Australia should invest more in alternative energy sources or risk being left behind’. Only 53% agreed (45% disagreed) that ‘Australia has an abundant supply of fossil fuels and we should continue to use and export them to keep our economy strong’.