As reported The Age this morning, the Climate Institute has released another of its regular public opinion reports. Climate change continues to be another case study in the difference between repeating the conventional wisdom back to pollsters and taking responsibility for an issue that, if the conventional wisdom is right, has consequences for the lifestyles of us all.
As in earlier research, the level of concern about climate change is very high, at around 90%. 80% want the government to give the issue a high priority.
It’s when we get to the solutions that, as usual, things start to unravel. Three-quarters support laws to ensure all new electricity comes from clean energy sources. 87% support 25% of electricity coming from wind and solar sources by 2020. As wind electricity currently costs twice as much as coal-generated electricity, that is going to add significantly to power bills – especially as a hefty carbon charge on coal is going to be needed to make wind power financially feasible.
But how much extra are people prepared to pay for electricity? Even with their previous answers creating pressure for personal responsibility, and no real cost involved, 28% of respondents said that they were not prepared to pay anything more for clean energy. Another 32% said they were only prepared to pay another $10 a month (or about 10% more if the last ABS expenditure survey is a guide). Only 7% were in the more realistic range of $40 or $50 a month (if we can assume some technological advance and economising in response to higher prices).
Back in the real world of politics, Kevin Rudd was today announcing a scheme to reduce rather than increase energy prices.
As I said last year:
This is the greenhouse ‘denialist’ problem – not a few conservatives arguing that climate change is a left-wing conspiracy, but a public that accepts the theory but rejects the consequences of their beliefs.