Climate of the Nation 2017: Australian attitudes on climate change
**Following the closure of the Climate Institute on 30 June, its significant remaining funds and intellectual property will be transferred to the Australia Institute, to help carry forward the Australia Institute’s climate change-related research and advocacy.**
The Climate Institute has now been conducting its Climate of the Nation attitudinal research for more than a decade. It is the longest continuous survey of community attitudes in the country. And it is our last.
This year, the Climate Institute surveyed 2,660 Australians across the country, including 600 each in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, and 400 each in South Australia and Western Australia. We also conducted eight focus groups in Adelaide, Brisbane, Parramatta and Townsville.
Over the last eleven years, we have charted the attitudes of Australians to climate change, its impacts, the science, potential responses, the opportunities it presents and the performance of our leaders in relation to it.
All the while, politicisation, resistance to action and outright denial of the realities of climate change have ebbed and flowed, on both the domestic and the global stages.
A similarly vexed argument about energy and its role in reducing carbon pollution has run concurrently. Australia’s high carbon energy system and abundant renewable energy resources make this debate central to national climate action and, ultimately, economic transformation.
Key developments of the last twelve months include, on one hand, a return to the use of energy and climate as partisan political tools. On the other hand, there has been gathering momentum among business, finance and investment, agriculture and energy sectors for the federal government to get its climate and energy policies in order.
These trends are occurring in the context of a dramatic change within our energy sector, which has featured the rapid entry of new technologies like battery storage, but also sudden coal station closures, electricity blackouts and steep hikes in gas prices. The public discussion has become more complex, multi-faceted and characterised around “energy security”.
Yet we have found that Australian attitudes have remained steadfast. While our 2016 research showed, in many cases, a statistically significant upward shift in attitudes, results for 2017 have mostly returned to the trend that was established in the years immediately preceding 2015.