Australians' climate ambition emerges from shadows of 'carbon tax lie' Media Release

Jul 16, 2013 - 1:00am

To access the full report, videos, factsheets and other content related to Climate of the Nation 2013, please visit the project page

A ustralians’ climate ambition has rebounded as people recognise that climate change is already impacting the nation. Dislike of the ‘carbon tax lie’ is greater than that of the policy itself, for which there is an emerging sense of ‘give it a go’ as part of an awareness of the potential economic opportunities that come with climate action. 

Those are key findings of Climate of the Nation 2013 , released today by The Climate Institute, benchmarking public attitudes from last year. The report draws on qualitative (focus groups) research and nationally representative quantitative (poll) research in early June*. 
“Attitudes about climate change are emerging from the shadows of the perceived ‘carbon tax lie’ and there is a sentiment of ‘give carbon pricing a go’. There is absolutely no foundation for suggesting that the forthcoming election is a ‘referendum on the carbon tax’,” said John Connor, CEO of The Climate Institute.  
“In mid-2013, two-thirds of Australians think that climate change is occurring and almost all of them believe that it is impacting us now. Two-thirds are concerned about the cost of living impacts on food prices and insurance premiums of further extreme weather events as a result of climate change.” 
Researcher John Scales notes in his conclusion to the report that in mid-2012 virtually all climate attitudes were viewed through the prism of the ‘carbon tax’, hiding “undiminished concerns about climate change and why, following the introduction of carbon pricing, there is a firm belief that it should be given a chance to work”.

Connor said: “Climate change is not perceived as a priority issue in the upcoming Federal election, but it’s not for lack of people’s interest or concern for the issue. Politicians should not ignore the fact that the public sees economic opportunities in taking action and that there is rebounding support for Australian leadership on finding solutions to climate change.”  
“Opposition to carbon pricing has dropped significantly but that’s not to say the policy is popular or understood. Support remains soft but it rises to a majority when people understand the policy correctly, that is that all of the revenue raised from it goes to support households and industry, and is invested in renewable energy.” 
 Other key findings include:

  • 66 per cent agree that climate change is occurring. 87 per cent of these believe both that humans are at least in part to blame and that we are already experiencing climate impacts in Australia. Only 11 per cent of those who agree climate change is occurring think it is caused solely by natural cycles.
  • 58 per cent think that Australia should be a leader in finding solutions on climate change, up 6 per cent from last year and on the rise for the first time since 2008, when 76 per cent shared the sentiment.
  • 43 per cent think that now the laws are in, they should be given at least a few years to work and only 24 per cent think that if the laws were abolished electricity prices would go down to pre-law levels.
  • Last year, 65 per cent thought that they would be worse off from the carbon price, down to 53 per cent this year. In 2012, 36 per cent said they would be much worse off, this has dropped to 24 per cent.
  • 87 per cent placed solar energy within their top three preferred energy options. Wind was the second most preferred option with 67 per cent. Coal and nuclear are rated lowest.
  • 63 per cent of Australians think that responding to climate change presents a unique economic opportunity for the development and sale of renewable energy. Also, 71 per cent see new jobs and investment in clean energy resulting from Australia acting on climate change, with 64 per cent of Coalition voters sharing this view.
  • 40 per cent of Australians believe the Renewable Energy Target of 20 per cent by 2020 should be higher while just nine per cent believe it should be lower.
  • For Coalition voters, in early June the top concerns were about Labor’s economic mismanagement, its perceived broken lies and promises generally, and Julia Gillard’s ‘carbon tax lie’. The carbon tax itself was further down a list of issues, including waste of taxpayers’ money and dislike of policies generally.
  • People don’t think that industry and the media are doing a good job at addressing climate change, giving them net performance approval ratings of -17 and -20 per cent respectively, broadly similar to last year, while the Federal Government improved from minus six per cent to minus one per cent.
  • Labor (26 per cent) is still seen as having a more credible climate change policy than the Coalition (19 per cent), though both are at low levels.  

“The bottom line of our research is that the opportunity lies in the future, not the past,” Connor said. 

Climate of the Nation 2013 also finds that what gets lost in the climate change debate is the economic opportunity. Most Australians understand that climate action creates new jobs and investment in clean energy, and most recognise that tackling climate change presents a unique economic opportunity for the development and sale of renewable energy technology.”

“Australians believe we can’t afford to be in a position where we deliberately give up on the chance to refocus our manufacturing and export industries towards developing and supplying increasing global demand for cleaner, greener technology.” 

“The climate of the nation has moved on from last year when fear and fury about the carbon tax dominated climate discussion. There is still confusion and cynicism about the solutions, but a marked re-emergence of climate ambition and expectations of and on Australian leadership,” concluded Connor. 

Climate of the Nation 2013 as well as an executive summary and various factsheets exploring demographic and other differences in views are available at

For more information         

Kristina Stefanova, Communications Director, The Climate Institute, 02 8239 6299
John Connor,— CEO, The Climate Institute, 02 8239 6299

* Discussion groups were held between September 2012 and May 2013 in Sydney and Brisbane. The national online survey of 1,009 Australians was conducted 1-7 June. All research conducted by JWS Research.

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