More Australians than ever are worried about the climate crisis, annual survey suggests

By Katharine Murphy and Adam Morton
Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching
Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef has suffered severe coral bleaching. A survey has found more than three-quarters of Australians are now concerned about global heating. Photograph: Greg Torda/EPA

A majority of Australians are worried about the threat posed by global heating and want serious action to address it, but Queenslanders are less concerned than people in other states, according to the latest Climate of the Nation report.

The authoritative annual survey of 2,626 voters – now in its 14th year and managed by the progressive thinktank the Australia Institute – suggests three-quarters are worried about the climate crisis, the largest proportion in its history.

As cabinet meets on Wednesday to consider a new climate roadmap the prime minister, Scott Morrison, wants to unveil before the Cop26 talks in Glasgow, the poll suggests a clear majority – 69% – want the Morrison government to put Australia on a path to net zero emissions. The same proportion wants the Coalition to do more to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles.

But the survey data suggests Queenslanders are less perturbed about the risks posed by the climate crisis than other Australians, with 69% saying they are concerned, compared with the national average of 75%.

Queenslanders are also less likely to say Australia should be a world leader in looking for solutions than people in other states (63% of Queenslanders agree, compared with the national average of 67%).

Morrison is attempting to persuade the National party to sign on to a net zero target before the United Nations-led climate conference in November. Liberals are optimistic agreement with the junior Coalition partner can be reached but a number of Queensland Nationals oppose the shift.

While the Climate of the Nation data suggests attitudes in Queensland are different to other states, it also suggests public perceptions are on the move.

Half the Queenslanders in the sample now support a moratorium on coalmining, which is a three-point increase from 2020. A significant majority also agrees that Australia needs environmental protections (71% agreed in 2021, up from 68% in 2020).

Agreement among Queenslanders in the sample that coalmining has a strong economic future declined by eight points over the past 12 months (37% of respondents agree with that proposition now compared with 45% last year).

But Australian voters continue to think fossil fuel industries employ more people and generate more national income than they actually do.

With trenchant opponents of climate action declaring Australia should not cripple traditional industries with ambitious emissions reduction targets – an attack line a number of Queensland Nationals use regularly – the latest survey shows Australians overestimate the size of gas industry employment by a factor of 46.

Voters estimate that on average 9.2% of the workforce is engaged in oil and gas extraction when the reality is those industries represent only 0.2% of the Australian workforce.

But a clear majority say they support the reliance on fossil fuels ending. The poll suggests 82% support the phasing out of coal-fired power stations.

The Nationals leader, Barnaby Joyce, told the ABC on Tuesday night that a deal with the Liberals on net zero was not yet done.

The deputy prime minister contended that regional Australians had been “done over” during previous international climate commitment periods because “people played a sneaky little game, and we ended up with the divestment of our private property”.

Joyce said the Nationals wanted complete clarity on the economic assumptions guiding the shift Morrison was proposing.

The Nationals frontbenchers Bridget McKenzie, David Littleproud and Keith Pitt were briefed for the first time on Monday afternoon on the roadmap that has been worked up by the energy and emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, with input from across the government. Joyce was in Monday’s briefing.

Taylor was asked by Nationals to provide more detail about the economic analysis underpinning the new proposed roadmap for Wednesday’s cabinet deliberation. Some insiders insist the negotiation has a long way to go, and internal perceptions vary about the level of base support inside the Nationals for a climate policy pivot.

The new Climate of the Nation survey will be launched on Wednesday by the shadow climate change minister, Chris Bowen. Bowen argues strong support for climate action in the data indicates “the needle has shifted in the public debate around climate change”.

“It’s a global race to become a renewable energy superpower – it is clear Australians are on board – it’s past time for the government to join them,” Bowen said.

The new survey and the cabinet deliberation comes as the Liberal senator Andrew Bragg will use a speech to the Investor Group on Climate Change to advocate for carbon neutrality by mid-century, declaring a “100% renewable energy future is within sight”.

Bragg will argue schemes like Buy Now Pay Later have a role in driving the transition, and cite estimates showing that over the past year around 15% to 20% of all solar installations were financed by BNPL.

He will also argue that non-superannuation asset managers should use their investment clout to drive broader uptake of existing technologies, and further work on firming technologies like batteries.

As the Morrison government’s pre-Glasgow deliberation moves to end game, the New South Wales government will pledge $3bn in incentives to build a local hydrogen industry and exempt green hydrogen production from government charges.

The treasurer and energy minister, Matt Kean, said the state’s hydrogen strategy would help it meet a newly set target to cut emissions by 50% compared with 2005 levels by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by 2050. “This strategy is forecast to more than half the cost of green hydrogen production in NSW,” he said.

It follows similar announcements in other jurisdictions and nationally, though the federal government has emphasised the role of blue hydrogen, created using gas, along with green hydrogen, created using renewable energy.



What is inkl?

Important stories

See news based on value, not advertising potential. Get the latest news from around the world.

Trusted newsrooms

We bring you reliable news from the world’s most experienced journalists in the most trusted newsrooms.

Ad-free reading

Read without interruptions, distractions or intrusions of privacy.