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 contained a tracking question testing Australians' attitudes to global warming, and the steps they think Australia should take to deal with it. In 2014, we introduced a new question asking Australians their views on what the Australian government should be doing on the issue of global warming and carbon emissions.
Now about 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.
The first Lowy Institute Poll in 2005 found that global warming was the second-highest worry for Australians after ‘unfriendly countries developing nuclear weapons’, and in 2006, 68% of Australians said that global warming was ‘a serious and pressing problem [and that] we should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs’. These results came during a period of extreme drought and water restrictions in Australia, and arguably contributed to (then) Prime Minister John Howard’s announcement in 2007 that his government would introduce an emissions trading scheme in 2011.
By the 2009 Poll, however, and with Australia’s drought broken, the number of Australians who said global warming was a ‘serious and pressing problem’ had dropped to 48%. Successive Polls between 2006 and 2012 revealed a steadily declining concern about the seriousness of global warming, and a decreasing preparedness to support action that would involve significant costs.
In 2014, this trend has shifted, with the 2014 Poll recording the second consecutive rise in Australians’ concern about climate change. Forty five per cent of Australians now see global warming as ‘a serious and pressing problem’, up 5 points since 2013 and 9 points since 2012. However, the level still remains considerably below the 68% who expressed this view in 2006.
When asked about what the Australian government should be doing on the issue of global warming and carbon emissions, a majority of Australians (63%) say that the government ‘should be taking a leadership role in reducing emissions’, while only 28% say ‘it should wait for an international consensus before acting’. Very few (7%) express the view that the government ‘should do nothing’.