Archive for the 'Environment' Category

Reasons for opposing the ETS

Roy Morgan Research has asked its global warming question again, and found that the proportion of the electorate Australians believing that climate change concerns are exaggerated is up again, from 27% to 30%. Disapproval of the ETS is up from 24% to 31%.

The Pollytics blog analysis of these results shows that it seems to be largely driven by partisan effects, with Labor voters becoming less likely to believe that concerns are exaggerated and Coalition voters more likely to believe that concerns are exaggerated (surprisingly, Green voters are also showing increased scepticism; if this is real it is perhaps a reminder that about a third of Green voters appear to be low-ideology, not-rusted-on, supporters).

Roy Morgan also asked an open question about why voters disapproved of the legislation. I’ve tried to organise them into categories, and find that those giving sceptical reasons are 9% of the sample (or just under a third of ETS opponents), those thinking the ETS is futile are 8.5% of the sample, those thinking it costs to much are 8% of the sample, those offering tactical reasons are 6.5% of the sample, those offering cynical reasons (eg distribution of credits is unfair) are 1.5% of the sample, as are those saying the public doesn’t know enough.

So there are several broad reasons for opposing the ETS, with none dominant.

A manipulated Green climate change poll

According to a Galaxy Poll released by the Greens today, the Australian public wants a more ambitious ETS than the one proposed by the government. It asked

The government has proposed a minimum emissions reduction target of 5% by the year 2020. Scientists and environmentalists have suggested a more ambitious target if we are to properly address the issue of climate change. In your personal view, should the aim of the legislation be a minimum reduction of 5% as suggested by the government, or a reduction of at least 25% as argued by scientists and environmentalists?

35% of respondents wanted the 5% target, 54% wanted the 25% target, and 12% gave neither or don’t know responses.

This is a classic case of the party financing the poll getting the result it wants, constructing a question and possible answers around the known contours of public opinion to get a fundamentally misleading result. Read the rest of this entry »

American climate change scepticism growing too

A couple of weeks ago I noted modest increases in Australian climate change scepticism and much larger increases in policy action scepticism over the last couple of years.

Now a Pew survey shows that in the United States the sceptics are gaining ground. Since April 2008, the proportion of respondents believing that there is solid evidence that the earth is warming has dropped 14 percentage points to 57% (there is no same-wording question in Australia, but similar questions find over 80% belief in global warming).

climatepew Read the rest of this entry »

The cooling of climate change

As the media have been reporting today, the annual Lowy Institute public opinion survey shows that whatever is happening to the planet, climate change as an issue is cooling.

There were signs of this in an August Morgan poll, but its finding that the proportion of respondents believing that climate concerns were exaggerated had doubled since 2006 was ambiguous. As I suggested at the time, this could be a reaction to the relentless and seemingly hyperbolic predictions of doom over that time, rather than showing any real gains by the sceptics.

One of the Lowy questions does however suggest that the sceptics, while still being a small minority, are gaining ground. The proportion of respondents agreeing with the proposition that until we are sure climate change is a problem we should not take costly actions has nearly doubled, from 7% to 13%.

Despite passionate debates about climate science among activists (please don’t re-run them in comments), this isn’t the main political issue. Rather, that is how much pain the electorate is prepared to suffer to solve a problem that an overwhelming majority (76% in the latest Lowy survey) say is real. Read the rest of this entry »

Is climate change alarmism encouraging scepticism?

Climate change ‘alarmists’ have been utterly relentless in their campaigning. It’s quite possibly the biggest global political campaign in history. My media survey last year found an average of 1.6 different predictions of climate doom a day. Even on a boat tour of Stockholm today I could not escape it, with warnings that human-caused global warming could cause parts of Stockholm to flood (on the other hand, not having their waterways ice up in winter might be one of the pluses of global warming).

But a recent Morgan poll suggests that maybe the constant predictions of doom is having an unintended effect. The number of people who think concerns are exaggerated has doubled since 2006, from 13% to 27%.

There is still an overwhelming majority of people who believe that climate change is happening and strong majorities in favour of policy action. But perhaps the claims of impendending disaster are sounding a little too hyberbolic, and people are beginning to mentally discount the scale of the problems we face.

(It could be that the denialists are gaining some traction; though they get only a small fraction of the media coverage given to the alarmists.)

HT: Pollytics blog.

The daily disaster – climate change in the media

Harry Clarke isn’t happy that Quadrant rejected his article criticising the ‘denialist’ perspectives that have been getting plenty of space in its pages. Quadrant editor Keith Windschuttle’s reasoning goes like this:

We find that the pro-IPCC position is very well represented in almost every media outlet in the country, including academic journals and websites, but it is very difficult for sceptics to find any outlet for their voices to be heard. Hence, in the interests of balance, we believe the sceptics deserve a fair go in a little journal like ours.

My month of media monitoring shows that the alarmists do indeed get a lot of coverage. I counted 47 alarmist stories in the media over the last month, so an average of about 1.6 different predictions of disaster per day. This underestimates the saturation coverage this issue receives – I did not count multiple versions of the same story in different media outlets, and decided against including most borderline cases, where pessimistic projections were reported in a neutral way without accompanying calls to action. Maybe the prophets of doom were working extra hard in the lead up to the Poznan conference, but overall it confirms my impression that the alarmists are relentlessly on-message.

The NIMBYists were, however, closely pursuing the alarmists for numbers of stories in the media until late last month, but it seems we ran out of industries that were going to be devastated by an ETS. The NIMBYists finished well behind the alarmists on 31 stories. This might also have been higher than usual, in the lead up to announcing the detail of the ETS.
Read the rest of this entry »

All talk and little action on greenpower

We know from previous polling that people are reluctant to pay the increased energy prices that will be required under the ETS.

Yesterday the ABS put out some survey results that let us do a revealed preference test on willingness to pay more for greenpower electricity.

In March this year, just under a third of people indicated that they were willing to pay more. But another question on how many are actually paying more came up with a much lower result – 5%. Talk is cheap, greenpower is expensive.

The question about willingness to pay has been asked four times: in 1999, 2002, 2005, and 2008. In the first three surveys willingness to pay was stable on around a quarter of respondents. So the third recorded in 2008 is a clear change.

Yet given the saturation media coverage of climate change issues – I set myself an even bigger task than I realised in going through the results of a daily Google news search for my monitoring of alarmist, denialist and NIMBY stories – it is a clear but small change. There is a major gap between what is required to reduce carbon emissions and what Australians are prepared to do themselves to achieve that reduction.

A wet argument for expensive water

My friend Chris James, a regular spokesman for the Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry, drew the short straw today when he had to defend customers in cafes being charged for tap water.

One person who called 3AW claimed to have had to pay 40c for water, which on the water prices quoted in The Age article is at least 500 times the cost even for large glass. Extreme capitalism!

According to Chris, it is a voluntary charge and the money is to be used for water-saving measures. But when interviewed on radio he could not explain how we could be sure that the money would be spent this way, or why if water-saving measures are necessary they should be be paid for via a levy on water. Indeed, a shift in relative prices against water would lead to more consumption of other drinks that use far more water in their production than tap water does.
Read the rest of this entry »

Australian teens not so NIMBY as The Age suggests

Australian environmental polling consistently finds young people to be greener than old people, but according to an article in Monday’s Education Age Australian 15 year olds deserve a place on the NIMBY list.

Drawing on results from the 2006 OECD PISA survey, the article says that

only one in 10 Australian teens strongly support the regulation of factory emissions that could lead to product price rises, less than a quarter strongly supported emission checks on vehicles as a condition of use and one in seven strongly supported cutting back on unnecessary use of electrical appliances.

But on looking at the OECD report, the key word in that paragraph is ‘strongly’. It lists agree or strongly agree in a single figure, and on that Australian 15 year olds start to look less NIMBYish. The one in ten wanting regulation of factory emissions increases to five in 10 when those who just agree, rather than strongly agree, are included (this is less than the 69% OECD average, but the question wording is vague in not specifying what the emissions are). Nine in ten want emissions checks on vehicles, and six in 10 claim to be disturbed by the waste of electricity in applicances.

Eight in 10 favour electricity being being produced from renewable sources, even if this increases the price.
Read the rest of this entry »

Do voters want an ETS sooner or later?

The polls on whether the financial crisis means that the ETS should be delayed constistently find a significant minority in favour. Two polls last month came up with 22% and 30% in favour of a delay. A Galaxy poll in today’s News Ltd tabloids puts the constituency for postponing at 25%.

However, the polls are contradicting each other on what the rest of the voters want. The first of the polls, from the Climate Institute, was too poorly presented to know what people thought. The Newspoll found 30% for a delay and 21% against an ETS at all, creating a slim majority of 51% opposed to a 2010 start date. But in the Galaxy poll there was no option given for rejecting an ETS, and instead 21% went for ‘introduce sooner’, which when combined with the 41% preferring the orignal timetable creates 62% support for 2010 or earlier implementation.

These results appear highly sensitive to the options being offered, so it’s not clear what the voters really want. Given their confessed ignorance on this issue, that’s perhaps not surprising.