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climate change

May 31, 2010

Lowy Poll - climate change and public hypocrisy

The Lowy Institute has released their annual Lowy Poll that mostly focuses on various asp

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The Lowy Institute has released their annual Lowy Poll that mostly focuses on various aspects of foreign policy related public opinion. We’ll go through the broader poll a little later on today, but first up it’s worth going through the responses to a set of global warming questions they asked – and in some instances, have asked over a number of years.

This year’s poll is a phone poll that ran off a sample of 1001, giving us an MoE that maxes out around the 3.1% mark.

The first global warming question asks:

There is a controversy over what the countries of the world, including Australia, should do about the problem of global warming. I’m going to read you three statements. Please tell me which statement comes closest to your own point of view.

They’ve asked this question 4 times in five years, allowing us to see some longer term trends in the responses:

lowygw1

The trends here are consistent with what we’ve seen from the Morgan phone poll results over the same period – where the urgency of public opinion on the need for action has waned over the last 3 years.

The next question asks about public opinion on unilateral climate change action, with some interesting results.

At this stage there is no global agreement to reduce carbon emissions. Do you personally agree, or disagree that Australia should take action to reduce its carbon emissions before a global agreement is reached?

lowygw2

72% of the public believe that Australia should take unilateral action. We know from the first question that only 46% of the public support action that involves significant costs while 40% believe in gradual, low cost action – but what numbers do the public attach to “significant” and “low” costs?

The Lowy Poll adds some meat to the bones of this question in terms of personal financial costs with their next question:

One suggested way of tackling climate change is to increase the price of electricity. If it helped solve climate change how much extra would you be willing to pay each month on your electricity bill? Please say an amount, rounded off to the nearest ten dollars.

They also asked this question in 2008 – so we’ll run through both results, by age cross-tabs, and look at how the willingness to pay has changed over the last 2 years.

lowygw3

Across the total Australian population, the proportion of people not prepared to pay anything has increased from 21 to 33%, while the proportion of people prepared to pay some amount has remained steady or dropped across all nominated ranges of cost values.

The age breakdowns have shown some quite dramatic shifts. While 18-29 year olds have not shown any significant movement over the last 2 years in terms of willingness to pay, the 60+ age group has shown a 20 point increase in the proportion not willing to pay any increase in electricity prices and where most of that shift came from people willing to pay a small amount (1-10$ per month) two years ago.

The older a person is, the more likely they are to not only be not prepared to pay higher electricity prices, but over the last two years, the older a person is the more likely they were to increase their opposition to paying higher prices.

Lowy also produced some cross-tab results for the first question against the responses of this willingness to pay question:

lowtgw4

A full 20% of the those that believed in the need for immediate action that carries with it significant costs weren’t actually prepared to shoulder any of those significant costs themselves via increased electricity prices. In fact, only 29% of the people that believed in action involving significant costs were willing to pay significant costs themselves in terms of paying $21 or more a month for their electricity.

This is like those  standard polling results that show a large majority wanting more government services, and the same sized majority wanting lower taxes. Climate change, like so many other areas of public policy in Australia, is an exercise in rank public hypocrisy – oh yes, we all want X,Y and Z, but someone else can pay for it.

Possum Comitatus — Editor of Pollytics

Possum Comitatus

Editor of Pollytics

Political Commentator and Blogger

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68 thoughts on “Lowy Poll – climate change and public hypocrisy

  1. Abbott burns his budgies over U.S. carbon | Carbon Claptrap … and other bunkum

    […] drought certainly galvanised public appetite for action on global warming back in 2007. A Lowy poll that year showed over 65 per cent of Australians saw global warming as a serious and pressing […]

  2. Burning the budgies over U.S. carbon | Independent Australia

    […] drought certainly galvanised public appetite for action on global warming back in 2007. A Lowy poll that year showed over 65 per cent of Australians saw global warming as a serious and pressing […]

  3. crikeyjill

    Looking at your last table, can you confirm whether the percentages run down, or across? Down is more common.

    Your comment, “A full 20% of the those that believed in the need for immediate action that carries with it significant costs weren’t actually prepared to shoulder any of those significant costs themselves via increased electricity prices” works if the percentages run across.

    If they run down, you’d say “20% of people who are not prepared to pay anything believe in the need for immediate action…”

    Just checking… thanks for publishing the data.

  4. Will cyclone Yasi push Australia into action on climate? | Damian Carrington | Netmax Websolutions Articles

    […] has taken from extreme weather, on top of its recent long drought, will shift the country’s stubborn streak of sceptical opinion on climate change. Climate sceptics, as elsewhere, are firmly in the minority, but their viewpoint appears to have […]

  5. How Green Was My Tally « Notasheeple's views on people.

    […] Despite the best efforts of naysayers it’s clear from polling that climate change is still a prominent concern amongst Australian […]

  6. The Future Makers & the politicians | Fulfil This!

    […] At the same time the general public are hard to manage. They seem to wish for action on climate change but, when pushed to make a change or even pay a little more for their lifestyles they cry out in anger. [Crikey: public debate and hypocrisy on climate change […]

  7. Towards a Citizens’ Assembly: In defence of Gillard’s climate change plan « Woolly Days

    […] Certainly all of the above commentators would (except Bolt). But the point is undermined by public hypocrisy. The majority does not yet appreciate “there is not a switch to flick or one single behaviour to […]

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    […] as demonstrated by a number of studies including this five year Lowy poll, the hypocrisy of public opinion is that while we support action, we are unwilling to foot the […]

  10. Billy Blogs

    The ultimate hypocrisy is those who said that climate change was our gretaest challenge and that we all ‘had to do our bit.’. That then turned in to ‘some have the capacity to do more than others’ follwed by the policy that some, infact, would be making 20% out of climate change……?????????

    So these voters are happy to do something on climate change, as long as they either don’t lose anything, or they make 20%.

    There’s something about a group of people who are are more than generous with other people’s money that irk me.

  11. David Richards

    ….. if it wasn’t for that particular property of the atmospheric gases, the Earth would be a ball of ice. However, there comes a point where the atmosphere is so good at trapping the heat that you get thermal runaway as in the case of Venus. Venus might be habitable, were it not for its extreme greenhouse effect. Business as usual by humans on this planet (exponential increases in population with the consequent exponential increase in atmospheric pollution and reduction in forestation, the 24/7 production/consumption imperative) could very well bring about “Venus On Earth”. The only issue remaining is the time frame. Exponential increases have a way of getting out of hand very quickly. There is a story about a Chinese worker who made an agreement with the Emperor to do some work for the Emperor in exchange for 1 grain of rice on the first day, 2 grains of rice on his second day, 4 grains of rice on his third day, and continuing to double the previous day’s number of rice grains each day. After 30 days, the Emperor owes the worker over a billion grains of rice.

    We might not have a disaster on our hands quite yet, but by the time impending disaster is obvious to the likes of Andrew Bolt, it will be too late to do anything.

    (Bolt as lookout on Titanic… What ice…….{CRUNCH})

  12. caf

    ray: Convection can move heat around within the atmosphere, but it cannot cause it to leave the Earth. The Earth is surrounded by the vacuum of space, which does not conduct heat. This means that the only way that heat energy can leave is the same way it can arrive – by radiation.

    The mechanism by which carbon dioxide (and many other atmospheric gases too, eg methane) cause a net warming to planets has been known for a long time. Such gases are transparent to visible light, but opaque (to some degree) to infrared light. The energy in the radiation arriving at the planet is carried proportionally more in the visible spectrum than the infrared, as compared to the radiation leaving the planet. This means that the “greenhouse gases” are more transparent to the incoming energy than the outgoing energy, which means that they act like a (leaky) valve.

  13. Frank Campbell

    James H: “Frank, have you not noticed the increasing number of bushfires, droughts, hurricanes, floods, etc, not just here in Australia but worldwide?”

    This is precisely why AGW scepticism is rising. Hurricane predictions post-2005 proved false. As did the British Met Office prediction last year of a ferocious summer. The severe northern hem. winter wasn’t predicted either. It is self-defeating for AGW believers to hang their hat on short-term weather events. Both sides of the cult do it shamelessly.

    The bushfire-drought-flood cycle in Australia (which is only one very small region in the global context) is following historical precedent. Historical records incidentally are only about 150 years old- about as long as the current global warming phase.

  14. JamesH

    Frank, have you not noticed the increasing number of bushfires, droughts, hurricanes, floods, etc, not just here in Australia but worldwide? Check pages 15-17 of “the Copenhagen Diagnosis” for an overview of the peer-reviewed literature on extreme events linked to global warming.

  15. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    Chris Twomey – Did you know that installing solar cells under Rudd’s scheme results in more carbon pollution?

    Bellistner, on solar cells being bad for the environment, said “Bulldust. This is the same argument that gets trotted out that claims PV is a net energy sink. It’s garbage. Sure, you could sell the Credits, and Hazelwood could buy them and just keep on polluting, but this is not a given.”

    Well if you buy your solar cells using Rudd’s solar rebate scheme then it is a given.

    Under Rudd’s scheme, for every unit of renewable energy that your cell produces, the supplier of your cell gets FIVE units of credit. They sell these credits, and this is where the money to subsidize the solar cells comes from.

    The extra solar cell credits mean that for every unit saved by a solar cell, four units of non-renewable energy no longer need to be replaced by renewable. Thus carbon pollution is increased.

    It seems that many on Crikey still believe that Rudd cares about climate change. His changes to the solar cell rebate scheme show not only that he does not care, but that he is prepared to damage the environment to save his government money.

  16. David

    Low income households – including many of the people over 60 – would be well compensated for the rise in electricity prices. If this fact were added into the quesiton, the answers would change.

  17. Bellistner

    Is it hypocritical for a poor single mother of three to believe that climate change is a serious environmental problem, but be unwilling to pay for the solution?

    Yes. By her choice (presumably) to breed high-demand children (and in excess of replacement volume), she has deliberately made both Population pressures and AGCC worse.
    The best AGCC policy is Birth Control.

    Chris Twomey – Did you know that installing solar cells under Rudd’s scheme results in more carbon pollution?

    Bulldust. This is the same argument that gets trotted out that claims PV is a net energy sink. It’s garbage.
    Sure, you could sell the Credits, and Hazelwood could buy them and just keep on polluting, but this is not a given.

    There is no scientific evidence that proves the supposed relationship between CO2 concentration and air temperature in the earth’s atmosphere.

    Except that you can disprove this assertion with a bit of Primary School Science class.

    On the front page of the local state your-News-is-LTD rag last week, was a ‘exclusive’ about how electricity prices were going up. It’s being blamed on new subdivisions and Coal Prices. These excuses boil down to 1)increasing population, and 2) fueling requirements. If we were to, say, replace 1GWe of coal-fired power with 1GWe of, say, wind (with backup), then prices would not increase substantially even if the price of steel and concrete went up, as there are no on-going fueling costs (just regular maintainence and lubrication). And if we were to implement policies that discouraged parenthood (unlike the current policies which actively encourage it), population pressures would drop (this, in a country that’s currently importing 200,000 people a year because Business is too damned lazy to train local workers).

  18. Michael Wilbur-Ham (MWH)

    Did the flying spaghetti monster tell you this Ray?

    Or perhaps you have another reason for believing that the research contained in thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers is all wrong. If so, please tell.

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