Since the 2009 Lowy Poll conducted in July last year and the 2010 survey in March, climate change scepticism has stabilised, with those believing it is a serious problem requiring taking steps now consistently in the 45-50% range, and the hardcore sceptics at around 13%. Given the publicity given to the ‘Climategate’ story and the changed signals to Coalition partisans since July 2009 that is a good result for those who have been pressing on us the need for urgent action.
However the medium-term failure of the climate change campaign since 2008 is highlighted by this figure from the Lowy report on willingness to pay higher electricity bills:
This confirms the results of the IPA Galaxy Poll, that the proportion of the population not prepared to pay anything at all has increased from about one in five in 2008 to one in three in 2010. As with the IPA/Galaxy poll, what seems to have occurred is that some of those who were prepared to pay only trivial amounts in 2008 have lowered their offers to zero. Those in the highest category, willing to pay $21 a month or more, are a stable proportion of the population. As Pollytics blog rightly points out, there is a fair amount of hypocrisy showing in these numbers.
Perhaps some of this was inevitable as knowledge increased of the cost of climate change action. Even the modest ETS proposed by the government would have hit Australians with much higher charges than any poll has found the public supports. But it highlights how the climate change action camp put far too much effort into hunt and destroy missions against climate change sceptics, and put far too little effort into converting the support they did have into acceptance of non-trivial financial commitments.
These figures give some context to the government’s ETS back-flip. On these numbers, the hypocrisy of the Australian electorate vastly exceeds the hypocrisy of the Prime Minister, and implementing the ETS would been politically dangerous for him. The Greens will denounce him, but their preferences will still flow back to Labor. When uncompensated middle Australia voters started getting ETS-inflated energy bills their votes could easily have gone straight to the Coalition.