While only a minority of Coalition voters believe climate change is human-induced, even the most sceptical want action to combat it, the CSIRO has reported.

As Crikey reported yesterday, just 28% of Liberal voters and 22% of Nationals voters believe climate change is human-induced, according to a report released by Australia’s peak scientific agency, CSIRO. This news was reported in multiple outlets somewhat direly as “most Coalition voters” not believing in human-induced climate change. But beyond the headlines, the report finds that most Australians still want something done about climate change.

CSIRO researcher Iain Walker told Crikey that overall there was “strong support for a range of actions”. The biggest was backing investment in renewable energy sources, and public transport, followed by banning development in floodplain or coastal areas. The only mildly opposed measures were government investment in nuclear power, and increased government aid for overseas countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. But Walker was quick to point out that often when surveys are taken, respondents are inclined to want the government to do something.

“An import point to note, though, is that it is common in surveys for people to indicate that they expect government to take action, no matter what the issue being asked about,” Walker said.

Although the report didn’t break down support for action on climate change into voting behaviour, the report found that even among those who did not think climate change was happening, they still supported action on climate change.

“Even the lowest scoring group — those who claim climate change is not happening — still produced an average score that was above the index midpoint, indicating that there is broad support for a range of adaptation actions regardless of opinion about climate change,” Walker said.

And even among those who believed climate change isn’t happening, they still attributed 34.5% of climate change to human activity. This was 61.5% for all respondents, and 79.2% for people who believe climate change is happening and human induced.

Walker said that these figures highlighted the complexity of the understanding of climate change in the population.

“One could read the figures and conclude that people are inconsistent and contradictory — those who say ‘climate change is happening and human activity is causing it’ rate human activity as contributing only about 80% to climate change, and those who say ‘climate change is not happening’ rate human activity as contributing about 35% to climate change. These apparent discrepancies reveal the complexity of human understanding of difficult issues. It is not as simple as concluding that humans are inconsistent or contradictory or irrational.”

By gauging for the percentage of climate change attributable to humans, the CSIRO was able to account for a broader range of responses on climate change, such as climate change being natural and being accelerated due to human impact.

On a personal level, most Australians are not personally taking much action on climate change, with 19.7% saying they voted in an election on the basis of an environmental issue, and just 6.4% of respondents saying they were a member of an environmental group or movement. Just less than half said they recycled or composted household waste for environmental reasons, and just 10.4% bought carbon offsets to reduce their carbon footprint for environmental reasons.

Essential this week reported that among Coalition voters, just 15% said that world leaders did not need to act to prevent the world’s population from being impacted by climate change. It was still more than either Labor or Greens voters, but the overwhelming majority of Coalition voters support global action on climate change.

Peter Fray

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