I believe that by the middle of next decade people denying significant human agency in causing climate change will constitute a crank fringe and will basically be ignored.
The Climate of the Nation 2018 report, now produced by The Australia Institute (pdf here), found that more Australians accept the reality of climate change than at almost any time since Climate of the Nation began in 2007.
Three quarters (76%, up from 71% 2017) of Australians accept that climate change is occurring, 11% do not think that climate change is occurring and 13% are unsure.
Acceptance of climate change closely follows voting intentions, but interestingly while One Nation (22%) and Nationals (15%) voters are the most likely to say they do not think that climate change is occurring, this declined significantly for both groups since 2017.
The effects of heat are the driving concern about the impact of climate change, and people were most concerned about more droughts and flooding affecting crop production and food supply (78%), destruction of the Great Barrier Reef (77%) and more bushfires (76%).
Here are some of the key findings:
- 73% of Australians are concerned about climate change, up from 66% in 2017
- 70% of Australians agree that the Government needs to implement a plan to ensure the orderly closure of old coal plants and their replacement with clean energy
- 67% want to end coal-fired power within the next 20 years, up from 61% in 2017
- 5% of Nationals voters do not think climate change is occurring (down from 29% in 2017), and 45% of One Nation voters agree the seriousness of climate change is exaggerated, down from 56% in 2017
- Majority of Australians (52%) blame the privatisation of electricity generation and supply for increasing electricity prices
- 49% support a moratorium on new coal mines and the expansion of existing ones (20% oppose).
The report finds that the public is way ahead of its government in its concern about climate change. It quotes the parting message from PM Malcolm Turnbull:
‘In terms of energy policy and climate policy, I think the truth is that the Coalition finds it very hard to get agreement on anything to do with emissions… The emissions issue and climate policy issues have the same problem within the Coalition of … bitterly entrenched views that are actually sort of more ideological views than views based, as I say, in engineering and economics.‘ (Emphasis added)
- The Coalition government under Scott Morrison has formally abandoned its centrepiece climate policy to address emissions in the electricity sector and is now relying on policies that are either running out of funding (existing Direct Action policies) or are coming to the end of their life (scaled back Renewable Energy Target) to deliver reductions. Prime Minister Morrison maintains Australia will meet its Paris target, but it remains to be seen how, given emissions are increasing.
Here are some of the graphs that caught my eye. First, the percentage by party who think climate change is not occurring:
Just over half (56%, 50% in 2017) of Australians believe that humans are the main cause of climate change.
It’s interesting that when asked, Australians think that support levels for human causation are less than half (47%).
This one shows how the level of concern about particular impacts has changed in just one year:
This table shows preferred energy source:
Three in five Australians (61%) prefer that coal-fired power stations be phased out gradually so that we can manage the costs over time (21% As soon as possible).
Here’s what ‘gradual’ means:
The questions about phasing out coal mining are new – public awareness having been raised by the Stop Adani campaign. Here’s what people said:
Misconceptions about the size and value of the coal mining industry are stunning. This is what was reported under the heading:
Australians overestimate the size of the
- Australians significantly overestimate the size of the coal mining industry, both in terms of employments and its contribution to GDP. Excluding half (48%) of Australians who said they didn’t know, on average, Australians believe that coal mining makes up 8.8% of the workforce in Australia. That would be about 1.2 million workers out of Australia’s 13.3 million-strong workforce. In reality, coal mining is a relatively small industry in terms of employment, with 46,495 workers. On average, Australians believe that coal mining contributes 10.9% to the GDP of Australia. (This excludes 52% who don’t know). In reality, it contributes 1.0%.
So we think that employment in the industry is 25 times more than it is, and that it contributes almost 11 times more to the economy than it does,
This is what we think of what we should do about the Paris Agreement:
Apart from One Nation and the 25% who don’t know or are not sure, support is pretty solid – even the 76% of LNP voters who have an opinion split 47-28 in favour of staying.
The report concludes:
- Australians are increasingly concerned about the impacts of climate change, particularly the effects of rising temperatures, heatwaves and extremely hot days and they do not believe government is doing enough on climate change.
They blame electricity companies, privatisation and federal government policy uncertainty for electricity price rises and they support an orderly transition away from coal-fired power. More people disagree that coal has a strong economic future than agree and they would prefer that governments invest in renewable energy infrastructure over gas and coal, when spending taxpayers’ money.
Despite a decade of policy uncertainty and leadership turmoil, Australians back strong climate action and a majority want Australia to play a leading role when it comes to climate action, not wait for others to act. It is a message our elected representatives would do well to listen to as we head towards the next federal election.
Meanwhile our governing party continues to live in an alternative reality. Here’s the latest from RenewEconomy:
This is what Taylor wrote in the AFR today:
We won’t accept Labor’s 45 per cent Emissions Reduction Target and 50 per cent Renewable Energy Target. Their plan to take the failed South Australian experiment national will take a wrecking ball to our economy.
The situation is dire enough without interventions that will drive up prices and drive down reliability by prematurely driving out coal and gas.
Australians have had enough of unaffordable power bills driven by Labor’s virtue signalling, and of corporate greed dressed up as saving the planet. It’s time to go back to basics and put customers first.
I wonder what Angus Taylor and his ilk think of the extraordinary run of severe weather events we’ve been having around the world lately. I’ve recently come across my post of April 2016 – Hansen worries that all hell will break loose. Attribution studies will no doubt soon tell us.
Problem is, they do get a few hurricanes in places like North Carolina. A quick search says since 1851, 47 hurricanes have made direct hits there. However, together with sea level rise these storms are becoming a tad problematic. I think these images come from Hurricane Matthew in 2016:
The standard position of people like Taylor, who has more than a few like him in North Carolina, is that, yes the climate is changing but it’s all due to sun spots and cosmic rays – or something.
Problem is that on a risk management basis they have to be 99.99999% sure that they are right and that all those scientists are wrong. Otherwise to say that they are being irresponsible is an understatement of epic proportions.