Climate concern increasing and impacts being felt now
Over three quarters of Australians (77%) agree that climate change is occurring, the equal highest ever recorded (tied with 2016).
Concern about climate impacts has increased across the board, with the most concerning impacts being droughts and flooding affecting crops and food supply (81%), animal and plant extinction (78%), and water shortages in our cities (78%).
Four in five Australians (80%) think that Australians are already experiencing the impacts of climate change (79% in 2018). After last summer’s record-breaking heat, almost half of Australians (48%) say climate change is already causing more extreme heat, up from 39% in 2018. For the first time, the majority of Australians believe that climate change is already melting the ice caps (51%).
61% of Australians believe climate change is caused by humans. However, Australians widely underestimate how many other Australians share this view.
Broad support for coal-fired power phase out
Solar is the most popular energy source for the fourth year in a row, with popularity strongest in regional and rural Australia, 18 percentage points ahead of any other energy source. The next most popular forms of energy (in terms of top three preferences) are wind, hydro and storage.
Most Australians blame increasing electricity prices on either the excessive profit margins of electricity companies (57%, up from 55%) or the privatisation of electricity infrastructure (55%, up from 52%).
While the Federal Government proposes to extend the life of old coal power stations, 70% of Australians support a government plan to ensure their orderly closure and replacement with clean energy. In Queensland, almost three quarters (73%) of respondents think that coal fired power stations should be phased out either as soon as possible (24%) or gradually (49%).
An emerging solution to managing the energy grid is known as ‘demand response’, where electricity companies pay users to use less electricity during times of peak demand and very high prices. The results suggest huge potential for demand response, with almost three quarters (72%) of Australians saying they would consider participating.
Leadership on climate change should come from governments
The majority of Australians (62%) believe the Federal Government should take a leading role in climate action. However, that does not absolve other levels of government, especially when national emissions continue to rise. The vast majority of Australians agree that State and Territory Governments should be either taking a leading role in or contributing to action on climate change (84%).
A majority (61%) agree that states should develop plans to phase out coal fired power stations, and over a third of Australians (36%) believe State Governments should act ahead of the Federal Government on renewable energy (32% think they should not).
The Australia Institute 2019. Reproduced with permission