Climate Change and Energy

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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 included a number of questions on climate change and on a range of policy approaches for dealing with global warming.

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Climate Change and Energy

CONCERN ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING

Australians’ concern about global warming continues to trend upwards. In a tracking question asked since 2006, the number of Australians who say that ‘global warming is a serious and pressing problem [and] we should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs’ has risen steadily from a low of 36% in 2012 to its current level, where 53% now take this view. This is an increase of 17 points since 2012. It remains 15 points lower, however, than the peak of concern recorded in 2006 when 68% expressed this view. Around a third (36%) say ‘the problem of global warming should be addressed, but its effects will be gradual, so we can deal with the problem gradually by taking steps that are low in cost’. Only 11% in 2016 say that ‘until we are sure that global warming is really a problem, we should not take any steps that would have economic costs’.

FOSSIL FUELS

Following on from our questions last year about Australia’s future energy mix and the relative roles of fossil fuels and other forms of energy, this year we presented a series of arguments about fossil fuels to further explore views about Australia’s energy future.

A very significant majority of Australians (88%) agree in 2016 that ‘the use of fossil fuels is in decline around the world and Australia should invest more in alternative energy sources or risk being left behind’. Almost as many (79%) say that ‘the use of fossil fuels causes global warming and we should reduce our reliance on them to help combat climate change’. These results align with the views expressed in our 2015 Poll on Australia’s future sources of energy. When presented with seven possible sources of energy and asked ‘which one of these energy sources do you think will be our primary source of electricity ten years from now’, ‘solar energy’ was by far the highest- ranked option in 2015, with 43% of the adult population saying that this ‘will be our primary source of electricity 10 years from now’. By contrast, ‘coal’ was selected by only 17%.

Despite the fact that Australia currently has no nuclear power plants, a significant 13% of the population said in 2015 that ‘nuclear energy’ will be our primary source of electricity within 10 years, higher than for ‘natural gas’ (10%), ‘wind’ (7%), and ‘hydroelectric power’ (6%).

These expectations contrast starkly with Australia’s current energy-generation mix. Coal currently accounts for over 60% of Australia’s electricity generation, followed by gas at around 20% and hydroelectricity at less than 10%. Solar energy accounts for less than 2% of electricity generation in Australia.

Despite this strong leaning towards solar energy, a majority (66%) in our 2016 Poll say that ‘Australia should continue to export coal to developing countries, to help them grow and reduce poverty’, and a further majority (though slight at 53%) say that ‘Australia has an abundant supply of fossil fuels and we should continue to use and export them to keep our economy strong’.

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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.


  • HOW TO USE
    • Hover cursor over dots on the line to view data. Click responses in the legend to switch individual results on and off.

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Climate Change and Energy

CONCERN ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING

Australians’ concern about global warming continues to trend upwards. In a tracking question asked since 2006, the number of Australians who say that ‘global warming is a serious and pressing problem [and] we should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs’ has risen steadily from a low of 36% in 2012 to its current level, where 53% now take this view. This is an increase of 17 points since 2012. It remains 15 points lower, however, than the peak of concern recorded in 2006 when 68% expressed this view. Around a third (36%) say ‘the problem of global warming should be addressed, but its effects will be gradual, so we can deal with the problem gradually by taking steps that are low in cost’. Only 11% in 2016 say that ‘until we are sure that global warming is really a problem, we should not take any steps that would have economic costs’.

FOSSIL FUELS

Following on from our questions last year about Australia’s future energy mix and the relative roles of fossil fuels and other forms of energy, this year we presented a series of arguments about fossil fuels to further explore views about Australia’s energy future.

A very significant majority of Australians (88%) agree in 2016 that ‘the use of fossil fuels is in decline around the world and Australia should invest more in alternative energy sources or risk being left behind’. Almost as many (79%) say that ‘the use of fossil fuels causes global warming and we should reduce our reliance on them to help combat climate change’. These results align with the views expressed in our 2015 Poll on Australia’s future sources of energy. When presented with seven possible sources of energy and asked ‘which one of these energy sources do you think will be our primary source of electricity ten years from now’, ‘solar energy’ was by far the highest- ranked option in 2015, with 43% of the adult population saying that this ‘will be our primary source of electricity 10 years from now’. By contrast, ‘coal’ was selected by only 17%.

Despite the fact that Australia currently has no nuclear power plants, a significant 13% of the population said in 2015 that ‘nuclear energy’ will be our primary source of electricity within 10 years, higher than for ‘natural gas’ (10%), ‘wind’ (7%), and ‘hydroelectric power’ (6%).

These expectations contrast starkly with Australia’s current energy-generation mix. Coal currently accounts for over 60% of Australia’s electricity generation, followed by gas at around 20% and hydroelectricity at less than 10%. Solar energy accounts for less than 2% of electricity generation in Australia.

Despite this strong leaning towards solar energy, a majority (66%) in our 2016 Poll say that ‘Australia should continue to export coal to developing countries, to help them grow and reduce poverty’, and a further majority (though slight at 53%) say that ‘Australia has an abundant supply of fossil fuels and we should continue to use and export them to keep our economy strong’.

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Fossil Fuels

Here are some statements made by other people about fossil fuels such as coal. Please say whether you personally agree or disagree with each of the following statements:


  • HOW TO USE
    • Hover cursor over chart segments to view data. Click responses in the legend to switch individual results on and off.