“Australia’s emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest per capita in the Western world – apart from tiny Luxembourg – and have grown by 1.5 tonnes a head since 1990, United Nations figures show”. Thanks to Tim Colebatch from The Age for providing this data.

Colebatch explains why Australia is doing so badly on these measures – “Australia’s emissions are high partly because electricity prices here are close to the lowest in the Western world. This has led us to specialise in energy-intensive industries, such as making aluminium, and has reduced the incentive to conserve power … The sprawl of Australian cities, relatively cheap petrol and fuel-inefficient cars have made our transport emissions particularly high. And having one of the world’s highest populations of cows per head gives us spectacularly high emissions of methane, which cows burp out endlessly”.

These are what competent and honest politicians might call “inconvenient truths”.

While our politicians may finally be coming around on the issue of protecting our environment, according to a new Morgan Poll the Australian public are already firm believers. In answer to the question “Which of these do you think should be the most important priority for the leaders of the world?” 22% of Australians aged 14+ said “protecting the environment” (up from 14% since December 2004) – making it the Australian public’s number one priority.

Predictably, Greens supporters were far and away the staunchest environmentalists, with 41% saying that “protecting our environment” should be our most important priority, followed by the ALP (24%) and the L-NP (22%).

Interestingly, younger Australians – those aged 14-17, 18-24 and 25-34 – are of the opinion that “eliminating extreme poverty and hunger in the world” is a more important issue than “protecting the environment”. Those aged 14-17 cite the “war on terrorism” as a more important priority for world leaders than “protecting the environment” (15% cf. 12%).

The PM’s “practical” investment of $60 million into climate change averting technology is a good first step – but it is clearly only the first step. This Morgan Poll shows the extent to which the Australian public wants immediate direct, decisive and effective policy.

Read more at Henry Thornton.