As bushfires ravaged Australia’s east coast last week, our hopelessly polarised climate change debate once again resurfaced.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said now is “not the time” to talk about climate change, while her deputy, state Nationals leader John Barilaro labelled anyone who did a “bloody disgrace”. Deputy prime minister Michael McCormack went a step further, claiming only “raving inner-city lunatics” would dare link the two.
But despite the Nationals’ claims that climate change is only a concern for a narrow urban elite out of touch with middle Australia, the data keeps proving them wrong.
As the AFR reported last week, a recent survey from JWS research found climate change was the number one voter concern. When asked unprompted to name issues of concern, 34% of respondents named climate, more than any other issue, and a jump of 12% since the last survey in June.
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Several other polls released in the last six months appear to say the same thing. According to a Lowy Institute poll conducted in March, nearly two-thirds of Australians viewed climate change as a critical threat to the nation, requiring urgent action. This is the highest level of concern since Lowy started asking about climate in 2006.
Another poll conducted by Ipsos returned similar findings — 65% of respondents said climate change is already affecting Australia and not just a future challenge. Around half believed Australia is already experiencing more frequent and extreme bushfires due to climate change.
According to The Australia Institute, 80% of Australians think the country is already experiencing the impact of climate change, while roughly two-thirds want us to move towards net zero emissions by 2050.
Of course, as pollies frequently tell us, the only poll that counts is on election day, and in May, Australia appeared to vote against climate action.
Still, on climate at least, it’s hard not to believe Nationals MPs are firmly in the minority.