Essay by Eric Worrall
Climate concern may not be the big political driver in Australia’s lurch to the left which everyone thought it was.
In a puzzling trend, concern about climate change has plateaued
Latest polling shows emissions reduction may not have been the hot button issue that swayed the Australian electorate.
In 2022, 60 per cent of Australians feel that climate change is a serious problem that should be addressed urgently.
With this significant change to the Australian climate policy regime, it’s a puzzle then to see that the Lowy Institute’s annual pollingshows little change in the pattern of aggregate climate opinion between the polling conducted around the 2019 election, and the most recent polling conducted two months before the 2022 election. In 2022, 60 per cent of Australians feel that climate change is a serious problem that should be addressed urgently (a further 29 per cent think climate change is a real but less-than-urgent problem, and 10 per cent are not sure that it is a problem at all). This hardly differs from the 61 per cent in 2019. In fact, the Lowy Institute’s polling has indicated a clear majority of Australians have favoured urgent action on climate change for a good five years now; well ahead of the 2022 change of government to give power to a party with comparatively stronger climate ambition.
The stabilisation of climate opinion in the Lowy Institute’s polling from 2018 at a near 60 per cent majority wanting urgent action follows a tumultuous decade of climate politics in Australia featuring unprecedented industry mobilisation, within and between party conflict, and divisive political campaigning. Given the high point of climate opinion at the beginning of the Lowy Institute’s polling in 2006 with demand for urgent action at 68 percent, it’s significant that climate opinion could erode as far as its low point in 2012, when it dipped to 36 per cent. And, it’s particularly significant that public support for urgent action waned under the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd Labor governments of 2007–2013 that worked to implement a climate policy regime, against unprecedented public opposition campaigning by the minerals industry, before strengthening under the Abbot-Turnbull-Morrison Coalition governments of 2013–2022 that came to power from opposition with a commitment to “axe the tax” on carbon emissions.
Should Australians demand ambitious climate action until they have to grapple with the realities of and contestation about climate policy implementation? If climate opinion remains stable at 60 per cent favouring urgent action while the Albanese government implements its climate policy regime – potentially against the headwinds of the powerful “Carbon Club”opposition from politics, industry and the media – the question of whether the 2022 election marks a step-change in Australia’s relationship with climate action may be answerable.
…Read more: https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/puzzling-trend-concern-about-climate-change-has-plateaued
I guess the real explanation for the change in Federal government last May was, nobody liked former Aussie Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Possibly the most damaging thing ScoMo did during his tenure is describe the entire state of Western Australia as “Cave Dwellers”, not modern humans – my conservative WA friends were still spitting about it in the leadup to the election. They didn’t vote for him. This misstep was closely followed by mishandling of a parliamentary sexual assault case, which caused a crash in support from women voters, and other episodes of poor judgement like leaving for a holiday in the middle of a major bushfire, which made ScoMo seem out of touch and insensitive to people’s needs. This his final fake looking pivot, his detail free attempt to embrace Net Zero, made him look weak and duplicitous.
One fascinating point made by Lowy is that climate concern tends to plummet when a government is elected which attempts to do something about carbon emissions, presumably because the economic pain caused by the attempt is a wake up call that there are other priorities. The current Aussie government has already had problems on that front, skyrocketing energy prices and blackout threats.
Lowy didn’t mention Climategate, though Aussie climate concern was falling well before 2009, when the Climategate emails were released. Climategate was a rare public reveal, which for a time shattered people’s perceptions of scientific objectivity, because it showed scientists acting more like spoiled children or politicians than scientists – applying questionable looking “tricks” and fiddles to data, like apparently deleting data which didn’t comply with the narrative they were presenting, denying skeptics access to data, threats of physical violence, and using dirty tricks like threats of boycotting scientific journals to try to exclude competing viewpoints, or try to have unsympathetic journal editors fired.
The funniest part of this poll is the confirmation that Greens are their own worst enemies. If greens had embraced nuclear power from the start, there would have been no painful economic wakeup call, and possibly even no Climategate. I only started questioning the alleged climate crisis because of the vehement rejection of the most obvious solution. Many of us had similar wakeup calls along the path to skepticism. It was like Greens wanted to fail.