Climate change hypocrites make ETS backdown sensible politics

The 2010 Lowy Poll allows us to update some of our analysis of the politics of climate change (Pollytics blog has a helpful summary of the climate change questions).

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.

12 Responses to “Climate change hypocrites make ETS backdown sensible politics

  • 1
    Russell
    May 31st, 2010 19:27

    Andrew, I don’t think you can draw those conclusions from that crummy survey. If I were asked if I would pay more ‘to help solve climate change’ I might say No; but if I were asked if I would pay more with the money all going to build renewable energy plants, I might say yes. People want a definite plan.

    Same thing applies to your last sentence – if, when people got their bills, they also had had a strong sense (a government provided ‘narrative’?) that they were paying for something measurably better than before, they might accepet that.

    Pity we don’t have optional preferential voting – in the last state election I was able to vote for (and help elect) a Green MLA (now already a Green Independent, alas) without preferencing the ALP.

  • 2
    Andrew Norton
    May 31st, 2010 19:37

    Russell – Polls reported in my article (second link) do show support for renewable energy ideas. But the persistent pattern here is support for high-minded ideas and technologies that sound good but can’t deliver cheap or reliable energy, which evaporates the minute people are asked to do anything serious themselves.

  • 3
    Sleetmute
    May 31st, 2010 19:42

    I don’t disagree on the hypocrisy, but a lot of people in the government’s table would have (in theory) received 100%+ compensation.

  • 4
    Russell
    May 31st, 2010 20:10

    “which evaporates the minute people are asked to do anything serious themselves”
    .
    Well their hearts are in the right place! They have the right idea, the difficulty is in finding how to make the idea reality, and sometimes that needs more than individual action. I pay for ‘Greenpower’ but I think it’s almost a scam – the electricity company buys certificates or some rubbish; I don’t get what I want which is renewable energy flowing into my home. So it’s dispiriting.
    .
    Also (and another of my favourite things to blame) is how much people are saturated with other messages like ‘buy this vivid HD TV” or this powerful, stylish car, or this funfilled holiday etc etc. Responsible messages are simply drowned out – it all weakens the resolve. If the government wants to spend on advertising, it should have a simple, real, coherent policy (eg. carbon tax and proceeds to renewable energy) and persuasively sell it.

  • 5
    Sacha
    May 31st, 2010 21:11

    Garnaut was right – addressing climate change in practise is a diabolical policy issue.

    Russell, you should learn how greenpower works – it’s the easiest way to directly add to investment in renewable energy. Does it matter if the electrons produced run into your house or someone else’s?

  • 6
    dk.au
    May 31st, 2010 21:41

    your reasoning is flawed.

    Householders can still support the CPRS and that not reflect in a simple willingness to pay question because they will receive compensation under the CPRS.

    The question and Labour policy are two different proposals.

  • 7
    Andrew Norton
    June 1st, 2010 04:49

    dk.au – Large numbers of households will be uncompensated or compensated less than the figures mentioned in the Lowy survey. For singles and couples without dependent children they’ll be paying more than $20 a month when their household income reaches the $70-$80,000 range. I’m not sure how many households are in this position but it would be a very large number who do not think they are ‘rich’ or anything like it.

  • 8
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    June 1st, 2010 08:46

    Russell – so you buy greenpower but you think its a scam??

    If you think its a scam (and it is), then why do you pay for it. Why don’t you just flush money down the toilet.

  • 9
    Russell
    June 1st, 2010 09:36

    Baz – it’s to send a signal.

  • 10
    Baz (the ordinary Aussie)
    June 1st, 2010 10:14

    A signal???…like Morse code?
    Pretty expensive anyhow.

  • 11
    Jeremy
    June 1st, 2010 18:52

    ‘… a lot of people in the government’s table would have (in theory) received 100%+ compensation.’

    Which is the equivalent of … paying nothing at all!

    Everybody could have won, if it weren’t for those damned dead-weight losses.

  • 12
    entropy
    June 4th, 2010 19:58

    dk.au said
    your reasoning is flawed.
    Householders can still support the CPRS and that not reflect in a simple willingness to pay question because they will receive compensation under the CPRS.
    The question and Labour policy are two different proposals.

    I don’t agree, it is probably more likely that people in this category will simply pocket the compensation as their right and still be unprepared to pay more for electricity. This is because their lifestyle will adjust to the extra income.
    There is no direct link between the compo and the charge, and thus people don’t reconcile the two.