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Climate change in the Lowy poll

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29 September 2008 14:21

Larvatus Prodeo is one of Australia's more prominent political blogs, and today it has some unkind things to say about the Lowy Institute's annual poll, released this morning. Specifically, the Institute is charged with push polling in regard to one question on climate change, which included the phrase, 'Until we are sure that global warming is really a problem, we should not take any steps that would have economic costs.' Larvatus Prodeo says:

The Lowy pollsters can’t even point to Climate Tragic Michael Costa to justify this anymore. Is this duplicity or just plain laziness?

Since Costa is known as something of a climate change denialist, let's first deal with the implication that the Lowy Institute has a climate change denialist agenda. Given the kind of speakers we've hosted, and the material we've published, this charge can be quickly dismissed. It's also worth noting that the Lowy Institute has not been a cheersquad for the Rudd Government's climate change agenda, with Professorial Fellow Warwick McKibbin strongly advocating an alternative approach (Ross Garnaut, the Government's lead expert on climate change, is also a Lowy Institute Board member). As with every other area of interest to the Lowy Institute, there is no institutional view.

As to the specifics of that climate change question, note that the phrase quoted by Larvatus Prodeo is only one of three that respondents could choose from. The second one proposes that climate change should be addressed, but at low cost, while the third says climate change is serious and should be addressed at significant cost (respondents chose overwhelmingly for the third option). 

For the life of me, I cannot see how that amounts to push polling. In fact, it would have been closer to push polling if we had left out the 'denialist' option. To illustrate the argument:

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