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Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Climate change press release - 15.03.09

More than eight in ten Australians believe that climate change is happening and that humans are at least partially responsible. An overwhelming nine in ten of these people want Australia to take a leading international role in tackling this issue. They say we should not wait for larger countries to spell out their policies first.

When the views of climate change ‘sceptics’ (the 16% of people who accept that the climate is changing but who doubt that humans have caused it) are taken into account, a massive 83% of Australians still favour Australian leadership according to the poll.

These findings have just been released from Thermometer Survey, a commercial syndicated research based service which provides information to several state governments and large private and not‐for‐profit organisations in Australia. They come from the most recent wave of one of the largest surveys of community opinion on climate change to ever be released publicly, conducted in February and which confirmed results from an earlier baseline survey conducted last September.

The survey was administered among a representative sample of 1606 Australians in September 2008 and updated among 1510 in February 2009. Given the size of the samples, the result is estimated to be the same, plus or minus 2.5%, as if the entire Australian population were to be polled, and would be repeated nineteen times out of twenty. By showing that the September result was replicated in February gives the poll significant credibility.

Only two percent of Australians (just one in fifty) deny the climate is changing. More than eight in ten (81%) believe human activity is at least partially responsible for climate change while 14% say there is no connection between changes in the natural environment and human development. Among those Australians who do believe there is a connection, 90% in September and 91% in February encourage early action by Australia.

In light of the global financial crisis, a new question was added to the February survey to test Australians’ resolve to act on climate change in the face of deteriorating economic conditions. 59% reported that they believe Australia should not wait until the economy crisis passes before addressing climate change but that we should take action on both issues at once. Only about one in eight believe action on the economic crisis should take priority.

Respondents were asked in both September and February to name the three most serious issues facing Australia on an unprompted basis. In September, the environment topped the list, mentioned by 46%. The economy came second, mentioned by 33%. Five months later, the two issues had reversed positions. The economy shot ahead 36 points to capture 69% of mentions and the environment fell just five points to be mentioned by 41%.

Thermometer Surveys (www.thermometersurvey.com) is the trading name for Think Taverner Pty Ltd, a partnership between Taverner Research and Think: Insight & Advice. Thermometer Survey is an ongoing tracking study of community opinion in relation to climate change and its detailed findings are available by subscription. Thermometer Surveys also undertakes custom projects for individual clients interested in the people side of climate change.

posted by Tom Mitchell-Taverner

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