- Australians are more concerned about climate change this election than at any time since 2007
- 61pc of poll respondents said climate change should be addressed now
- ABC’s Vote Compass also found the environment was the most important issue for voters
This is the first time climate change has led the list of potential threats in the long-running Lowy Institute poll since the question was first included in 2006.
The poll also confirmed Australians were more concerned about climate change this election than at any time since Kevin Rudd was elected in 2007 — when both major parties proposed an emissions trading scheme.
The poll was conducted between March 12 and 15, both over the phone and online. It drew the results from a nationally representative sample of 2,130 Australian adults and had a margin of error of about 2 per cent.
This year 61 per cent of voters said climate change was so serious and pressing we should address it now, even if was expensive. That is a 25 percentage point jump since 2012 and the highest number highest since 2006.
But responses to that question showed stark differences between generations.
Among Australians aged 18 to 29, 81 per cent thought we should take action on climate change, even if it was expensive. But less than half — 49 per cent — of those aged over 45 took the same view.
Natasha Kassam from the Lowy Institute said that finding was important.
“I think that’s particularly significant at the moment when you see school strikes and the attention that they’ve been attracting,” she said.
Only 28 per cent of people said climate change should be dealt with gradually, and 10 per cent said we should not act on climate change until we are “sure it’s a problem” — the lowest numbers since 2006 and 2008, respectively.
The results follow those from the ABC’s Vote Compass, which found the environment more broadly, was the most important issue for voters. A massive 29 per cent of respondents said the environment was the number one issue for them this election — a jump from just 9 per cent last election.
On Tuesday, a UN-backed report authored by hundreds of leading scientists warned life on Earth was being put at risk by human activities, and called for stronger action to protect the environment, including action on climate change.
In an interview with Nine newspapers after the release of the report, Prime Minister Scott Morrison reiterated the Coalition’s opposition to stronger environmental regulations, saying “green tape” could “tie up businesses” and cost jobs.
The Coalition’s climate policies include keeping Australia’s current emissions targets, which experts say are not compatible with the Paris Agreement to stop global warming. And it has proposed paying for a range of individual projects through the Climate Solutions Fund, as well as Snowy Hydro 2.0 and more pumped hydropower in Tasmania.
It has also said it would direct money from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation towards recycling, and provide grants to help protect some threatened species.
Labor has proposed increasing Australia’s emissions target and implementing a range of policies to bring down emissions from electricity generators, transport and the land sector.
Experts say the 2030 target is on the borderline of being compatible with the Paris Agreement, but the policies to meet that target are scalable.
Labor has also said it would establish a new federal Environment Protection Authority and rewrite Australia’s environment laws to “compel the federal government to actively protect” the environment.
The Lowy Institute Poll found 59 per cent of people thought Labor would do a better job of managing Australia’s response to climate change than the Coalition. But the Coalition was preferred on a number of other foreign policy issues, including national security and economic management.
The full results of the poll will be released in June.
Michael Slezak is national science, technology and environment reporter at the ABC.