A new national survey finds that Australians support a net-zero carbon emissions target and want a carbon tax to fund renewable energy and a phasing out of all fossil fuel mining.

These are the initial findings of Griffith University’s five-year National Climate Action Survey, one of Australia’s first longitudinal national surveys to capture changing societal perceptions about climate change and, significantly, climate action.

“The Climate Action Survey will provide insight into how Australians’ knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and actions change over time and how our sentiment compares with other countries around the world,” said Associate Professor Graham Bradley from the Griffith Climate Action research group.

“In light of the COP26 summit in Glasgow, the survey will be a timely and beneficial document for government and relevant stakeholders to get a clear picture of what Australians think and want around climate change and to guide their policy appropriately.

“A major finding that should spark government’s interest is that a majority of Australians regard climate action as an important consideration when deciding how to vote in the next federal election.”

This is the first wave of a planned five-year longitudinal study that traces Australians’ socio-demographic and lifestyle characteristics; opinions, self-identity, and worldviews; experience of natural disasters and extreme weather; understandings and beliefs about climate change; feelings and concerns about climate change and its impacts; and past, current, and future actions/inaction around climate change.

Examples of questions answered by the survey include:

  • Does anyone still not believe in climate change? If so, who?
  • What proportion of Australians support a net zero-carbon emission target by 2050? What proportion of federal coalition voters support this?
  • Should the government put a tax on carbon emissions?
  • How does the experience of extreme weather events like bushfires or floods impact Australians’ view on the need for climate action?
  • How interested are Australians in buying an electric or hybrid vehicle?
  • What proportion of Australians believe that the problems of climate change can be solved through new technology?
  • What concerns Australians more — climate change or COVID-19?
  • Are farmers concerned about climate change?
  • What sources do Australians most trust when it comes to information about climate change?

The national survey is one of many exciting projects of Griffith University’s Climate Action Beacon research group, a multidisciplinary research and education facility/team initiative established in 2020 to develop knowledge, leadership, capacity, and responses that support the transition towards a climate-resilient future.

“We hope that the findings from this survey will support the design of coherent policy around climate change. As such a complex, wicked problem, our inter-disciplinary interventions will assist pressing government and industry needs for up-to-date information on community sentiment and stimulate public debate concerning climate change-related matters,” said co-lead researcher Associate Professor Sameer Deshpande from the Griffith Climate Action research group and Social Marketing @ Griffith.

“These preliminary findings are just the tip of the iceberg in a survey that is unique in gauging the opinions of a large sample of Australian adults, stratified by gender, age, and region on climate action.”

“Our findings will also capture when Australians’ understanding of climate change is consistent with the science, their perceptions on how appropriate the government response is in addressing climate change and what more they could do to prevent or reduce its impact.”

This information derived from this survey will be crucial in policy discussions, especially in the design and implementation of interventions aimed at increasing awareness, interest and action concerning climate change.

The initial report of the full survey results will be available by December 2021 and can be accessed via the Griffith Climate Action Beacon website.