Climate Change: Almost Half Of Australia Is Still Ignorant Or Confused, New Poll Reveals


Labor and the Greens have sought to make climate change a key election issue this year, but that hasn’t changed the fact that a terrifying proportion of the voting public have buried their heads deep in the burning-hot sand.

An Essential Poll out this afternoon suggests that 28 per cent of the public believe “we are just witnessing a normal fluctuation in the Earth’s climate,” while a further 13 per cent “don’t know” if humans are to blame.

So, that’s 41 per cent of Australians who are ignorant and/or confused.

On the upside the poll suggests that since a (much more reliable) CSIRO study on attitudes to climate change was published last year, denialism has trended down.

The Liberal-National Parties attracted the lions share of climate deniers: In all, less than half of the Government’s support base – at 45 per cent – believe that “climate change is happening and is caused by human activity”.

That leaves 42 per cent of Coalition voters who think “we are just witnessing a normal fluctuation in the Earth’s climate,” and a further 12 per cent of the LNP support base which “don’t know” whether man-made climate change is real.

(A screenshot from today's Essential Poll.)
(A screenshot from today’s Essential Poll.)

Labor voters were less conspiratorial. A total of 69 per cent of Labor supporters are convinced “climate change is happening and is caused by human activity”. The party still has a climate-denying rump, however, with 18 per cent of Labor voters not convinced humans are to blame, and 13 per cent unsure.

Unfortunately for the Opposition, while its support base is generally aware that humans are demolishing the struts for life on Earth, a key plank of Labor’s repair plan is proving unpopular.

Only 15 per cent of Opposition supporters selected an Emissions Trading Scheme as the best response to climate change, despite that being a central and recently unveiled component of the party’s climate policy.

The Coalition’s solution – its Direct Action reverse auctions, which pay polluters with public money to pollute a little less – was seen as the best response to climate change by only 12 per cent of Government supporters.

(IMAGE: Ulrich Joho, Flickr.)
(IMAGE: Ulrich Joho, Flickr.)

In keeping with the findings of past polls, incentivising renewable energy was a climate crowd pleaser. It was the preferred action on climate change for 49 per cent of voters, who were split more or less evenly across both major parties.

Overall, 12 per cent of voters preferred “no action” on climate change. That’s a bit strange, when you consider that 41 per cent are effectively unsure if humans have a hand in the problem (and it’s worth noting there was no option for outright denial).

Labor was more trusted on environmental issues, but with so many Australians ignorant of what’s probably the gravest environmental issue, you have to wonder whether we can trust ourselves.

*The Essential Poll surveyed 1011 people, between 2 and 5 June.

Thom Mitchell

Thom Mitchell is New Matilda's Environment Reporter.