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Roundup: Survey indicates heightened concern in Australia over climate change

CANBERRA, June 23 — Australia's political "dinosaurs" will ignore at their peril renewed concerns among the general population about climate change, according to a new poll released on Monday.

Most Australians believe the federal government should be taking a leading role in addressing the matter, yet there are doubts about the commitment of Prime Minister Tony Abbott and opposition leader Bill Shorten to taking the necessary action.

The Climate of the Nation 2014 survey conducted by the Climate Institute also found that opposition to carbon pricing continues to decline in Australia. "While the dinosaurs in politics and business are roaring across our landscape, the majority of Australians are shrewder about the impacts, the opportunities and the need for leadership," the institute's chief executive John Connor said on Monday. "It is OK to like dinosaurs, but this year's Climate of the Nation survey shows that it may well be politically dangerous to be one when it comes to climate change and its solutions."

Connor said the survey indicated more Australians were concerned about the physical impacts, present and future, associated with climate change, and that an overwhelming majority thought tackling climate change could create job and investment opportunities.

"There is a rebound in desire to see the nation lead on finding solutions and a strong expectation of the government to address the climate challenge, alongside a very poor mark on its performance." "Australians continue to be uncertain, if not cynical, about political parties and their policies on climate change." "There is mistrust of both Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten regarding their attitudes on climate change, but particularly Tony Abbott. Yet a clear majority think the Abbott government should take climate change more seriously."

The conservative Coalition government will abolish the carbon tax introduced by the previous Labor government from July 1, saying it will reduce costs for Australian businesses and ease cost of living pressures for households. But survey results suggest carbon taxing is winning appeal in the wider population. "Opposition to carbon pricing has continued to decline and, as in other polls, there is a decline in the minority supporting repeal," Connor said. "For the first time more support carbon pricing than oppose it but there is still uncertainty about its benefits and its operation, while only around one in five Australians thinks that the government's alternative is credible." The Climate of the Nation 2014 survey compares public attitudes with the findings of similar research in mid-2012, mid-2013. Results are based on a nationally representative online survey that was conducted in May among 1,145 Australians aged 18 and over.

Key findings include:

— 70 percent of Australians think climate change is occurring, up 10 percentage points from 2012. An overwhelming majority, or 89 percent, of those believe the impacts are already being felt.

— 61 percent want Australia to be a leader in climate solutions, up 9 points from 2012 and on the upturn for a second consecutive year after the low points in 2012.

— The federal government is seen as most responsible for addressing climate change, but its performance is ranked low.

— Only 20 percent trust Tony Abbott when he says he is concerned about addressing climate change, in contrast to 53 percent who do not, including 37 per cent who strongly distrust the prime minister.

— About 31 percent trust Opposition leader Bill Shorten when he says he is concerned about climate change, while 32 percent do not trust him.

— 57 percent believe the Abbott government should take climate change more seriously.

— For the first time, more Australians support the carbon pricing laws than oppose them; 34 percent say they support the laws, up 6 points from 2012. Opposition is down 22 points from 2012.

— 47 percent now think carbon pricing is better than taking no action, up 8 points from 2012.

— Support for the government's proposed replacement Direct Action plan is low at 22 percent.

— 70 percent agree tackling climate change creates economic opportunities and support for renewable energy is strong in the face of escalating attacks.

— 71 percent want the Renewable Energy Target (RET) to be at least 20 percent by 2020, or higher, even when they are presented with the argument that the RET is a subsidy that drives up consumer energy bills. Only 11 percent think the RET should be exactly 20 percent;

— 76 percent think that state governments should be putting in place incentives for more renewable energy, like wind farms.

— 82 percent of Australians choose solar in their top three energy sources, 64 percent choose wind, while coal (15 percent) is even less popular than nuclear (20 percent). Some 28 percent have gas in their top three.

The Climate Institute on Sunday launched the "Stop the Dinosaurs" campaign to highlight the effectiveness of carbon and renewable energy laws in reducing pollution and increasing renewable energy. (PNA/Xinhua)


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