Public fears grow over climate change

| July 15, 2023

More than two thirds of Australians are concerned about the long -term threat of climate change on our way of life, significantly higher than similar fears a two years ago and continuing an upward trend over the past decade, the annual Ipsos Climate Change Report 2023 has revealed.

Data collected in May 2023 shows 67% of Australians believe climate change poses a serious threat to our way of life over the next 25 years, up nearly 10% on similar concerns in 2010.

Two thirds of Australians now believe climate change is already causing more bushfires, storms and floods, amid increasing consensus that climate change is already impacting the country directly.

General concern about climate change remains high, with eight in 10 Australians (81%) saying they were at least ‘somewhat concerned’ about climate change, in line with previous years.

Renewable energy remains the top environmental issue Australians want action on, with nearly half (47%) naming it as their priority, while they are most concerned about climate change’s impact on biodiversity and people in other parts of the world.

The majority believes the nation should be doing more to address climate change, with six in 10 saying Australia should be a global leader in emissions reductions. A third of Australians think the Federal Government is not doing enough to address climate change; however, there is strong support for the Federal Government’s most recement commitment to a 43% reduction in carbon emissions below 2005 levels (59% of respondents).

Perceptions of the potential for personal action to bring about change are slipping, with just 46% of Australians now believing they can personally make a difference to climate change impacts, down from 54% in 2022 and 50% in 2021. Four in 10 said they would take more action if they knew everyone was doing the same.

Confidence that the energy transition will lead to positive outcomes also appears to be declining. The proportion of Australians who believe the transition to renewable energy will have a positive impact on cost of living, jobs and reliability of the energy supply has dropped since 2022.

Ipsos Public Affairs Director, Stuart Clark, said: “Australians are becoming increasingly concerned with the potential long-term impacts of climate change. The recent spate of bushfires and flooding events have only added to fears about the ongoing effect of climate change, along with more immediate concerns about its contribution to extreme weather conditions.

“Overwhelmingly, people believe the Australian governments have a long way to go in taking positive action on climate change; many people are keen for the nation to step up and be a leader in the climate change space, driving the transition to renewables.”

Can industries do more to demonstrate their potential to take positive action on climate change?

When it comes to business actions, Australians focus predominantly on the role of multinationals and large Australian businesses for their capacity to effect positive impacts on climate change.

Sectors that are most considered to be able to make the most impact by taking action are coal, oil and gas (46%), energy (30%), mining (26%), and waste (20%).

Sectors such as fashion, banking, and pharmaceuticals are perceived by Australians to be less likely to be able to influence climate change, despite global pushes focusing on industries such as fast-fashion and their negative impacts.

Individuals are increasingly transitioning to solar and other renewable energy sources and making active ‘green’ choices in product and service selection

Australians see individuals as having a role in addressing climate change; however, perceive their actions may have less of an impact than government and business. Australians increasingly fear their individual actions will have little impact.

Acknowledgment of personal responsibility to help do something about climate change has dropped to 63%, down from 67% in 2022. Belief that individuals can make a difference to climate change is also dropping, down from 54% in 2022 and 50% in 2021. However, four in 10 indicate that they would take more action on climate change if they knew everyone else was doing the same.

The Department of Industry, Energy, Science and Resources’ statistics on household solar installations show Australia has the highest uptake of solar globally at approximately 30%1. The Ipsos Climate Change Report 2023 figures align showing 29% of Australians have already installed solar.

Australians are also active in improving energy efficiency around the home (32%) and considering products being purchased with respect to how they are made, materials and end-of-life disposal (25%).

At least 1,000 interviews were conducted via online panel for each wave of the research among Australian adults aged 18+. Data is weighted to match the profile of the Australian population.

The precision of Ipsos online polls is calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to +/-3.5 percentage points and of 500 accurate to +/- 5.0 percentage points. For more information on Ipsos’ use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website. The publication of these findings abides by local rules and regulations.