Climate Change and Energy

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One of the most dramatic movements in attitudes since the Lowy Institute began polling has been towards global warming and climate change. Since 2006, the Lowy Institute Poll has included a number of questions on climate change and on a range of policy approaches for dealing with global warming. In the context of heated debate about Australia’s energy supply, this year’s Poll included a question about the role of renewables and traditional energy sources in Australia’s future energy supply.

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Climate Change and Energy

CONCERN ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING

Perceptions of the problem posed by global warming trended strongly upwards from 2012 to 2016 and have held steady this year. 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 54% now take this view. This is an increase of 18 points since 2012. It remains 14 points lower, however, than the peak of concern recorded in 2006 when 68% expressed this view. Around a third (37%) 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 9% in 2017 (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’.

RENEWABLE ENERGY

Australians’ clear preference for renewables over fossil fuels has been expressed in successive Lowy Institute Polls. In the midst of a fierce debate about Australia’s energy supply and the role of renewables in early 2017, an emphatic majority (81%) of Australians want the government to ‘focus on renewables, even if this means we may need to invest more in infrastructure to make the system more reliable’. Fewer than one in five (17%) 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’.

These attitudes align with all of our previous findings on Australians’ preference for alternative energy sources. In 2016, almost all (88%) Australians 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’. In 2015, Australians expressed their high expectations of the role solar energy would play in Australia’s future energy mix, with solar energy the top response by far when we asked which source ‘will be our primary source of energy ten years from now’ (43% nominated solar energy, with 17% selecting coal, the second-highest ranked option).

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Global Warming

There is a controversy over what the countries of the world, including Australia, should do about the problem of global warming. I’m going to read you three statements. Please tell me which statement comes closest to your own point of view.


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Climate Change and Energy

CONCERN ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING

Perceptions of the problem posed by global warming trended strongly upwards from 2012 to 2016 and have held steady this year. 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 54% now take this view. This is an increase of 18 points since 2012. It remains 14 points lower, however, than the peak of concern recorded in 2006 when 68% expressed this view. Around a third (37%) 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 9% in 2017 (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’.

RENEWABLE ENERGY

Australians’ clear preference for renewables over fossil fuels has been expressed in successive Lowy Institute Polls. In the midst of a fierce debate about Australia’s energy supply and the role of renewables in early 2017, an emphatic majority (81%) of Australians want the government to ‘focus on renewables, even if this means we may need to invest more in infrastructure to make the system more reliable’. Fewer than one in five (17%) 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’.

These attitudes align with all of our previous findings on Australians’ preference for alternative energy sources. In 2016, almost all (88%) Australians 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’. In 2015, Australians expressed their high expectations of the role solar energy would play in Australia’s future energy mix, with solar energy the top response by far when we asked which source ‘will be our primary source of energy ten years from now’ (43% nominated solar energy, with 17% selecting coal, the second-highest ranked option).

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Renewables and Energy Supply

I am going to read some statements about renewable energy and energy supply. Please say which one of these statements comes closest to your own point of view:


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    • Click segment of chart to isolate data