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Survey shows climate change ranks lowest among issues and concerns about its costs have risen

20 September 2010

Overall, New Zealanders rank climate change at the bottom of their list of major issues and more people are growing concerned about the costs involved in tackling it, a new survey shows.

The telephone poll of 500 people, conducted by UMR Research on behalf of the Greenhouse Policy Coalition, shows climate change rated bottom in order of importance to people out of a list of 10 common issues, a drop from eighth out of nine issues in the same survey last year. The proportion of people agreeing that climate change is a serious issue fell from 42.6% last year to 36.3%.

“While many people still see climate change as an important issue, it has dropped in people’s priority lists. They appear to be more concerned about jobs and are less willing to pay much to deal with climate change,” says the Coalition’s Executive Director, David Venables.

“These results mirror recent surveys from overseas that show a drop in interest in climate change. A July poll in The Australian also rated climate change ninth out of 10 issues, while a Gallup survey in Australia showed the number of people rating climate change as “very serious” fell over the past two years from 31% to 22%. In the United States, a Gallup survey in March showed 48% of people felt concerns about climate change were exaggerated compared with 41% last year. And in Britain, a YouGov poll published in May found that interest in climate change fell from 80% in 2006 to 62% this year.

“While a lot of people still see climate change as something to be concerned about, interest has clearly waned in the face of economic hardship and the lack of international action on climate change, including Australia going back to square one on its emissions trading scheme and seemingly putting all options back on the table.”

The Coalition’s survey found (graphs of results available below):

  • Only 23.4% of people agree that New Zealand should reduce its emissions if it means reducing our standard of living – a fall from 34.9% in 2009.
  • 38% disagree that New Zealand should take part in a global emissions trading regime if it costs people $5 each a week – an increase from 32.1% in 2009.
  • Just 18.1% agree that we should cut emissions if it costs jobs – down from 24.3% in 2009.
  • 45.1% agree with the statement “controlling emissions is mostly about saving our planet – we shouldn’t be quibbling too much about money”, a significant drop from 55.9% last year.
  • A drop in support for switching to sustainable technologies if there’s a cost for doing this – from 78.3% to 65.6%.
  • A drop in the number of people who think putting a price on carbon is a fair way of reducing emissions. Asked to rate their views on a scale of 0 (totally unfair) to 10 (totally fair), 32.3% gave a rating between 6 and 10, down from 37.9% last year.
  • Only 33.9% agree with the statement “I feel fully informed about the ETS”, a slight rise on last year’s 29.4%.
  • 45.8% of people agree that climate change is happening and is caused by humans, up from 44.2% in 2009, while 32.7% feel there is evidence that climate change is happening, but it is uncertain whether humans are the cause (down from 35.7% last year).
  • There has been a slight increase among those who say the climate change problem effectively doesn’t exist (19.3%, up from 17.5%).

“Across the board, people seem less committed to climate change as an issue and are certainly less interested in doing something about it if it costs them. Policy makers need to take note of this trend when committing New Zealand to action on climate change. The results of this survey reinforce the Government’s decision to moderate the impact of the emissions trading scheme and the need to fine tune the ETS to keep in step with the rest of the world, particularly our main trading partners – Australia, the US, China and Japan. We need to remember that none of these countries is even close to getting a national carbon pricing scheme, a fact the Government should keep in mind as it reviews the ETS next year,” Mr Venables says.

“Another thing the Government should be particularly concerned about as it heads towards the review is the large number of people who feel they do not understand the ETS.”

The poll of 503 New Zealanders aged 18 and over was conducted in late July and early August and has a margin of error of 4.4% at a 95% confidence level.

For further information, contact:

David Venables, Executive Director, 04 473 0600 or 027 848 2368

Email: david@greenhousepolicy.org.nz

[Download as Word file (787k) or PDF (412k)]

Links to overseas survey reports

Americans’ global warming concerns continue to drop – Gallup survey, March 2010, published 11 March 2010

Australians’ views shift on climate change – Gallup survey, March 2010, published 6 August 2010; The Independent’s story about this poll can be found here

Climate change concern declines in poll – YouGov survey, published in The Guardian, 23 May 2010

Climate scepticism ‘on the rise’, BBC poll shows – published on the BBC’s website, 7 February 2010

Germans lose fear of climate change – published on Der Spiegel’s website, 27 March 2010

The Australian – July 2010 Newspoll

Graphs of results

People rating issues as a serious or very serious concern - 2010

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People rating issues as a serious or very serious concern - 2009

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New Zealand should reduce carbon emissions - even if it means reducing our current standard of living

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New Zealand should take part in an agreed international emissions scheme even if it costs each New Zealander $5 a week or $250 a year

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New Zealand should take steps to reduce carbon emissions even if it costs jobs

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Controlling emissions is mostly about saving our planet – we shouldn’t be quibbling too much about money

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New Zealand should switch to more sustainable technologies, even if there’s a cost for doing this

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How fair is this idea of putting a price on carbon emissions as an incentive to do something to reduce emissions? – 2010

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How fair is this idea of putting a price on carbon emissions as an incentive to do something to reduce emissions? – 2009

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I feel fully informed about the Emissions Trading Scheme - 2010

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I feel fully informed about the Emissions Trading Scheme - 2009

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Climate change beliefs - 2010

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Climate change beliefs - 2009

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