Confused about climate change? You’re not alone.

According to a report released this week by The Climate Institute, 66% of your fellow Australians think there are too many conflicting opinions for the public to be sure about the claims being made about climate change.

Why is this so? Are governments not doing enough? Are NGOs and think tanks not pumping out enough information? Are scientists just really crap communicators? Have the sceptics worked the smokers’ playbook to perfection? Are we just not interested anymore?

I found one of the tables from The Climate Institute’s survey to be most revealing. When 1,131 Australians were asked how they perceived the performance of key sectors in addressing climate change, guess who came off with the worst rating? After two solid years of Mr Abbott’s “toxic tax” attack, you’d think the federal government would cop most of the blame from voters. But it didn’t.

The standout worst performing sector, as recognised by its purportedly valued customers, was the media. NGOs top the list with a net +33 rating for their performance.

Local community and local government fare pretty well. Everyone else is in the negative. Voters recognise that Australian business and industry have been dragged kicking and screaming into action, failing to meet the aspirations of the public with a net -21 rating.

But at the bottom of the pile, nowhere near in sync with community expectations, is the media on -22 net rating when it comes to doing its bit on climate change.

“Surely Australians don’t think the media has a responsibility for taking action on climate change”, I hear the Bolt, Albrechtsen, Akerman troika ruminate. Again they’d be way out of step with community sentiment given 82% of respondents to The Climate Institute’s report said the media should be taking a leading role or contributing towards action on climate change, compared to 89% for the federal government.

The media survey their audiences to distraction and reckon they know what a reader and viewer wants to read, watch or hear. But with plummeting circulations, sometimes I wonder if their researchers are asking the right questions. There has been lots of media talk about aspirational voters, but do journalists really understand the aspirations of their voters?

In 2013, The Climate Institute will run another benchmarked Climate of The Nation report. Let’s see who are the improvers then.

Peter Fray

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