VOTERS want to be led on the issue of climate change, and if leadership means higher prices at the bowser, so be it. …
A strong majority of voters (61 per cent) say a carbon emissions trading scheme could help slow global warming. Almost as many again (56 per cent) are prepared to pay more for energy sources such as petrol, electricity and gas under an ETS.
But another poll, also reported today but in The Age, found that half the population had either never heard of emissions trading or did not know what it was. Only 7% claimed to know a lot about it. This did not, however, stop 72% of voters telling Essential Media Communications (a left-wing PR and polling firm) that they supported a carbon emissions trading scheme.
As usual, the closer we get to the specifics the lower the support for greenhouse action becomes. In the Newspoll, when asked if they were prepared to pay more to slow global warming, 56% agreed and 39% were against. When asked if petrol should be exempt, 42% were in favour. What was missing here was any indication of what level of price increases respondents would be prepared to pay. A Climate Institute survey earlier in the year suggested that very few were prepared to pay the kinds of prices needed to significantly change behaviour.
The Essential Media poll found far more in favour of including petrol – 78%, though it is not clear whether that was of the whole sample or just the 72% who favoured emissions trading, despite not knowing what it is. Too little detail has been published to analyse the Essential Media result properly. But one test of whether or not public opinion is real is to get very similar results from differently worded questions on the same topic. These widely varying survey findings suggest that we aren’t there yet with climate change action.
The Newspoll also highlighted another example of the real greenhouse denialists – the people who accept the theory of global warming but not the remedies. People aged 18 to 34 were most likely to believe that a carbon emissions scheme would slow global warming (72%, compared to 52% among the over-50s). But they were most likely to be in favour of making petrol exempt (52%, compared to 38% among the over-50s). Perhaps this is a rogue result of some kind. But given the pattern here of high-level issue opinion being a poor predictor of policy opinion where personal interests are concerned, it could be real.
On these results, Megalogenis seems over-optimistic about the government’s prospects in selling radical greenhouse change.