Climate Concern at Record High amid Floods: Largest Tracking Research on Climate in Australia

The Climate of the Nation 2022 Report reveals record numbers of Australians who are “very concerned” about climate change as record floods and extreme weather continue to wreak havoc across eastern Australia, and a majority believe governments are not doing enough to prepare for and adapt to the impacts, according to the largest and longest running research program into climate change attitudes in Australia.

The Climate of the Nation Report, now in its 15th year running, demonstrates the strong support for measures that limit and better tax fossil fuels, and fast track and fund climate solutions report reveals more than two thirds of Australians want the country to host the world’s largest climate conference.

The research shows a growing frustration at energy companies and a strong appetite to transition of gas and coal and onto electric homes.

Key Points from Climate of the Nation report:

  • 75% are concerned about climate change, with the number of those “very concerned” continuing to increase year on year.
  • 83% of Australians are concerned climate change will result in droughts and flooding affecting crop production and food supply
  • 83% are concerned climate change will result in more bushfires
  • 80% agree that climate impacts should be considered by the Environment Minister when approving future fossil fuel projects (or a ‘climate trigger’)
  • 61% support a windfall profits tax on the oil and gas industry, just one-fifth (19%) oppose. Support for a windfall profits tax on the oil and gas industry is broad, with majority support across age, state, gender and voting intention demographics

Overestimating economic contribution of fossil fuels:

  • 58x – the factor by which Australians overestimate gas and oil industry employment as a proportion of total employment. Australians believe oil & gas employs 9.7% of the workforce, they make up only 0.2%
  • 33x– the factor by which Australians overestimate coal mining employment as a proportion of total employment.
  • Australians believe the coal mining industry makes up 10% of the total workforce, in reality it makes up just 0.3%79% support a phase out of coal-fired power stations
  • A majority of Australians (57%) support Australia following the IEA pathway, to not approve any new gas, coal or oil projects.

Fossil Fuels and Tax:

  • Australians also believe that the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax (PRRT), the main way the Australian Government collects revenue from oil and gas exploration and mining, contributed 11% to the federal budget for the 2021-22 year. In reality, the PRRT contributed just 0.3%.
  • Only 14% think taxpayers should pay the costs of responding to climate change, compared to 48% who say fossil fuel companies should bear the financial burden
  • Only 8% do not want fossil fuel subsidy money spent elsewhere (like healthcare, cost of living and climate action)
  • Only 6% support using taxpayer funds to subsidise new coal mines
  • Over three-fifths (62%) of Australians support a levy on fossil fuel exports to help local governments respond to the impacts of climate change.

Transport:

  • 79% support a long-term strategy to provide vocational training to ensure there is a skilled workforce for the manufacturing of electric vehicles (EVs)
  • 75% support electrifying state bus fleets by 2030
  • 68% support the introduction of national fuel efficiency standards in line with those in Europe
  • 62% think that governments should introduce policies to encourage mode change from cars to active and public transport
  • 62% support a national subsidy scheme for bikes, e-bikes and cargo bikes

“As flood waters continue to rise at record levels, so too does the number of Australians worried about climate change impacts, with concern over floods at record highs,” said Richie Merzian, Director of Climate & Energy for the Australia Institute.

“The Climate of the Nation report shows Australians are fed up with the mismanagement of the country’s natural resource wealth and want a windfall profits tax on the gas industry and a levy on our fossil fuel exports to help pay for climate related disasters.

“Australians are dealing with the high-cost consequences of relying on gas and coal power and three quarters want the government to step in and plan the shift to renewables and storage.

“The massive opportunities that the energy and transport transition could bring are recognised by many Australians. Most agree that tackling climate change will create opportunities, jobs, and investment in regional Australia, and they support the industry policy and vocational training needed to reap those benefits.

“As the Climate Minister prepares to front the world at COP27 in Egypt, he can feel confident that most Australians want the nation to be a world leader on climate action and two thirds want to host a United Nations Climate Conference on home soil.

“Australia will struggle to be taken credibly as a clean energy export superpower while we remain a fossil fuel export superpower.

“Australians continually overestimate the economic value and jobs in the gas and coal sector, and despite this, the majority still want to stop new gas and coal mines and three quarters want a well-planned and coordinated phase out of coal mining. Yet perversely there are over 100 new gas & coal projects in the pipeline in Australia.

“The Australian Government has a clear mandate to do more when it comes to climate, in particular, clean transport. The upcoming electric vehicle strategy is an opportunity to get moving on fuel efficiency standards, targeted electric vehicles subsidies, and a phase out of fossil fuelled vehicles – all of which have strong public support.

“Australian’s want more than just the replacement of fossil fuelled cars with electric vehicles. They believe the government should help shift away from car use towards public transportation, cycling and walking. They want better infrastructure for active transport, subsidies for e-bikes and cargo bikes, and an all-electric Australian bus fleet,” said Richie Merzian, Director of Climate & Energy for the Australia Institute.

The Australia Institute acknowledges the dedicated work of the Climate Institute, which produced the report from 2007-2017.

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