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.

On my reading of polling on this issue, we can say the following things about public opinion:

1. Overwhelming belief that climate change is happening.
2. Strong belief that something should be done about.
3. Low levels of knowledge about the ETS itself.
4. Personal willingness to make sacrifices to reduce carbon emissions has always been well below what the government says is required and is declining.

Galaxy and the Greens exploited public opinion features 1-3 in order to get around feature 4, which runs against their political agenda. They did this by leaving out any mention of costs or trade-offs in the question, and by not explictly offering in the possible answers weaker options than the government’s ETS or no ETS. Other polls find 25-30% opposition to the ETS, but in this case it looks like without those explicit options only 12% volunteered a negative response they were not asked for.

Of course all sides in this debate are trying every political tactic in the book. But this poll clearly does not represent real public opinion on climate change policy.

47 thoughts on “A manipulated Green climate change poll

  1. The Greens are lying manipulators, and just plain fairies at the bottom the garden when it comes to their ridiculous ideological demands.

    Their position has nothing to do with science and everything to do with their so-called love of Gaia. They are governed by superstition and base tribal instincts.

    It’s no wonder their support is declining year by year, as even their faithfull have reached the “tipping point” on the lunacy scale.

    They have the credibility of the Democrats, and will soon go the way of that failed experiment.

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  2. Yes, I wonder if the poll outcome would change if the question was phrased in the following manner:

    The government has proposed a minimum emissions reduction of 5% by 2020. This represents a cut of 25% per person on 2000 levels even if developing countries like China and India keep increasing their emissions. By comparison, the European Union is promising a per person reduction of only 17% by 2020 and the United States has not promised anything. In your personal view, should Australia aim for a reduction of 25% per person, something more or something less?

    Even leaving aside mention of the costs of action, I doubt there would be a majority for a tougher target.

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  3. Since you boys feel so strongly about the lying, mendacious, manipulative Greens, why don’t you get a reputable poll done of Rajat’s question? It might cost you a shekel or two, but it’ll be well worth it to get the true measure of public opnion out there.

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  4. “It’s no wonder their support is declining year by year”
    .
    If you’re going to criticize someone/some organization for being dishonest (especially with such harsh language), you might want to be honest yourself, otherwise you look just as bad as those you are criticizing.
    .
    See for example here
    .
    As you can see, Green support is increasing, not decreasing (and 9% of the vote in the senate is pretty decent). It seems to me the most likely thing that will make their support decrease will be the assimilation of their policies by other parties (as happened in Germany).

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  5. Part of the Green vote is just the stray pox on both other parties vote, but the Australian Election Survey shows that their base support is rising too, and was just under 6% in 2007.

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  6. Peter – A quick check of the AEC website shows that the numbers are correct for 2004 and 2007 at least, so no evidence of declining year by year.

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  7. Yes this poll certainly leads people to give the answers that the Greens want, with the references to “scientists and environmentalists” – Although I’m not sure why the views of environmentalists count in this case. In any event, it fails to mention the 15% target that would kick in if there is a global agreement. For me, the 5% target is largely pointless (because in the absence of global agreement, 5% by Australia alone would do nothing), and the 15% target is decent, but I imagine it would probably need to be higher.

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  8. “Hopefully the 9% will one day come to their senses.”
    .
    JC, I’ll bet that in the future either (a) the green vote rises; or (b) the major parties end up being more green than now (e.g., both Liberal and Labor parties end up having fairly green policies), no matter how much you dislike it.
    .
    “Using Wiki to Quote the greens’ self entry – sorry sunshine…own goal!”
    .
    And the 2001 results are here
    .
    Any way PH, you don’t have to believe it, it’s probably a conspiracy after all.

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  9. But Rajat is doing what the greens did and the question is just as dishonest, meaning any results from it would be misleading.

    Anyone wanting to spend money on polling Rajat’s question would either be wasting it or already has a set position and wants to waste money in getting the result they want as they have no confidence in their position.

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  10. What? Surprise that a political party would pay for polling that provides the result they want? Have we forgotten the republic referendum question? C’mon – this isn’t about the Greens. Any polling paid for or designed by political parties fails at the first hurdle (except when it’s internal, of course!).

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  11. Whilst I agree that the poll is misleading I disagree with the fact that this makes the Greens more dishonest than any other Australian political party, but hey, it’s the Greens and they should have higher standards.

    Against Rajat’s question, I am sick of the view that since other countries are more focused on relieving poverty that we should do nothing. India and China need policies that will address both issues, I see it reasonable that their emissions rise as long as strong efforts are made to reduce those emissions. On the case of the EU, I think that the recent crisis has placed some countries in the EU in very poor situations and you have to realise the size and scale of the organisation. Even still they are pushing to aid developing countries, a policy Australia was unwilling to commit to.

    Whilst the poll does not capture the values of the Green party it’s hard to argue that they aren’t passionate progressives, and trying to undermine the legitimacy of their party is undemocratic. The greens policies are long term structural/societal changes and if you aren’t willing to sacrifice a couple of dollars then perhaps we all need more civics education.

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  12. The question is a form of push-polling, sure, but it’s not exactly suggesting egregiously false facts: it’s simply pointing out that environmentalists and scientists don’t think that the current CPRS will address climate change. The poll finds that Australians, unsurprisingly, would prefer policies that solve problems rather than don’t solve problems.

    The polling cited on public willingness to pay the proposed ‘cost’ of the CPRS is flawed for that reason. Why not poll people asking whether they would rather

    – pay nothing for inaction, which scientists think will not solve the problem
    – pay $10 a month for a policy that scientists think will not solve the problem
    – pay $30 a month for a policy that scientists think will solve the problem

    Clearly the middle policy is by far the most irrational one, yet it’s the one that is most likely to be enacted. The Greens are just trying to get the debate back on a rational footing. Either try and solve the problem, or don’t. I think that public objections to a particular dollar figure are highly overstated. I would speculate that if you poll someone on how much they’re willing to pay to solve a major policy problem, they’ll just choose the lowest number that sounds plausible based on the range suggested by the pollster. ‘How does $30 a month sound?’ ‘Ah that’s a bit much, can’t you do $12?’.

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  13. Actually, it is interesting that the Greens released this poll. The major parties rarely if ever release issue-based polling, presumably because they don’t want to establish public opinion as a policy benchmark – they know they will have to introduce unpopular policies at some point.

    The Greens don’t ever expect to hold power, and are still half issue movement, half broad-based political party, so using polls as a tactic still makes sense.

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  14. No, the biggest threat to civilisation is the really nasty little gnome who lives down the back of my garden and keeps going ‘boo’ when I walk past.

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  15. Well done Andrew….Polls commissioned by poltical parties are dodgy..who would have thought….this incredibly earth shattering research on the nature of commissioned polling by the greens would match all the other expose’s youve done on polling commissioned by the liberal party and any other dodgy industry group wouldn’t it?
    I assume, given your political affiliations that youre a climate change sceptic/denier? In the face of all the scientific evidence, who would have thought that it was the hard right that were the loopy post modernists – you know, ‘all truths are political and there’s no such thing as hard scientific fact’. Anyway, another important contribution to doing absolutely nothing.

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  16. Ah, links bring in the narky commenters again. A civility policy reminder. As I noted in comment 17, the major parties rarely use issue polling in public, so for lack of material I have not critiqued them. But I think readers who can be bothered going through the 135 or so public opinion posts here (and much else published elsewhere) would recognise that I report polling fairly, including many polls on economic reform issues contrary to my own policy position.

    As I have said many times, my position on this issue is that I agree that faced with strong expert warning of major problems no government can afford to ignore them. But I have no expertise in the science, and cannot add to the millions of words already on the public record, so I write about what I know, public opinion.

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  17. Sean’s contribution reminds me of the luvvie infestation following the post about Gideon Haigh and the Monthly.

    Ah – the glory days!

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  18. From time to time it would be nice to actually be told the name of these ‘scientists’ whose view we should follow.
    And just maybe – the names of any equally ranking scientific dissentors.
    Otherwise it sounds like a religious debate.

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  19. john- I agree. The statement ‘Scientists and environmentalists have suggested a more ambitious target if we are to properly address the issue of climate change’ is wrong. A more truthful statement is ‘Some scientists and environmentalists have . . . ‘
    There are many scientists and environmentalist who say we do not need to reduce our emmissions of plant food at all.

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  20. John and Jonno:

    Spending a little time reading on AGW does tend to show that it’s a bloody big long term problem long term if it isn’t dealt with, as the science is really there telling us it is. I don’t doubt that for a moment. However it’s the company i am forced to keep in thinking this way that makes me more than a little uncomfortable.

    We should have a target. Our target ought to be zero emissions by 2050 and this can be more than easily achieved with introducing large scale nuclear power. By 2030 at the latest most cars sold will be electric which means the rest of the problem is simply a mopping up operation.

    All that needs to be done is offer nuclear operators a 20 tax holiday and it’s a done deal. Yes, it is disrtortive but not nearly as distortive as the rest of the crap that’s being piled on. At the very least it would remove the sermonizing and the grandstanding.

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  21. jc – Spending a little time reading on AGW can also lead to the conclusion that it’s a bloody big con and we have no need whatsoever to give up cheap reliable sources of energy or to reduce emissions one iota. What if the skeptics are right!

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  22. Johno:

    oops too many “long terms”.

    Look if the sceptics are right then that’s a good thing and the cost of mitigation won’t be all that much if we pushed for nuclear with a tax free holiday, as I suggested.

    I agree with you that it’s a con in terms as it’s portrayed these days. I really don’t think it’s a con long term. It’s also a commons type problem seeing it’s a difficult one to manage so the least possible economic damage as possible is warranted.

    Even on present IPPC figures it is not a given that anything should be done as the estimated cost of mitigation is much higher than the damage.

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  23. Somehow when I look at these debates an image of a bunch of people standing in the middle of a train track arguing about whether that was a whistle comes to mind. The process may be satisfying but the outcome will be settled by the train.

    The basic science of global warming is not too hard (senior high school). For the the driver of warming (basically CO2) NOT to lead to warming would go against over 100 years of established science, including the science that makes jet engines and air conditioners work. Which is why the overwhelming consensus among those who know anything about it is that its real and a major problem, and that the longer you wait to do anything the worse it will be.

    Don’t take my word for it – just dig out the high school science text, follow the logic and then (if you feel like it) go and argue with the train.

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  24. PT:

    Your quaint analysis doesn’t take into account the most pertinent points of the equation which is the rate of change and the degree of change.

    That’s nowhere near being settled science, which means in your analogy the people standing on the track could be in Sydney while the train is in Perth expected to travel at around 3 miles an hour.

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  25. Russell – It’s so-called deliberative polling of 105 people; an interesting idea but it always results in the group agreeing with the polling organisers and can’t be taken as a measure of public opinion.

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  26. PT- My high school science text taught me about the natural carbon CYCLE. CO2 enters the atmosphere through certain kinds of rocks being broken down, volcanos and animals, including humans, exhaling. CO2 is removed from the atmosphere by plants and oceans absorbing it. Plants use it to grow and emit oxygen as a waste product. The CO2 absorbed by the oceans helps make coral reefs. The amount of CO2 being cycled through the atmosphere by these natural processes is much greater than the amount of CO2 being generated by non-breathing human activity.

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  27. Quite so. Who needs the scientific literature, researched by people working at the frontiers of knowledge, when you can just reach for your Year 9 text books?

    I am reminded of the episode of the Beverly Hillbillies, when “Doctor” Granny was asked how long she had spent in medical school. With post graduate work, she replied, pretty near two weeks.

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  28. jc – the rate of change is (within a reasonable order of magnitude) straightforward physics. Degree of change likewise. The real issues are whether the rate of change is subject to sudden discontinuities, and the impacts – both areas of real cutting edge science. So the train is a lot closer than Perth.

    johno – the issue is not how much relative to other processes, but how much in addition to these other processes. The numbers are readily available.

    Son of Ratpack – my point is that much of the basic science was settled years ago. The cutting edge science is not devoted to proving whether CO2 is a greenhouse gas, nor to the physical warming effects of a given rise in CO2, but to the precise effects on a very complex biosphere, and to the rate and process of change. The check against the high school science quickly sorts those who are doing the equivalent of arguing against gravity, and those very few who have a plausible point.

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  29. PT – if the numbers are readily available,can you provide them? My point is that with a carbon cycle much of the additional CO2 being emitted by humans is being used up as plant and coral food. It’s a good thing!

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  30. “The amount of CO2 being cycled through the atmosphere by these natural processes is much greater than the amount of CO2 being generated by non-breathing human activity.”

    Clearly not, since there has been a huge increase in CO2 since the industrial revolution, and especially since the first half of the 20th century. This is the first chart in climate science 101. The second chart shows the corresponding rise in global temperatures.

    The Wikipedia article on Global Warming is a good beginner’s guide, with a lot of references to the literature for interested readers.

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  31. johno

    Just using Real Climate, here are two relevant posts by climate scientists:

    A good explanation (by Corinne Le Quere, who heads an institute tracking the global carbon cycle) is here.

    Another on how much we have added (and how long it will affect the heat balance) is here.
    On plants – a significant fraction of CO2 is due to deforestation. Plants do take up more CO2 as the concentration rises, but this is not significant and anyway dependent on a lot of other things (minerals, water, heat) being just right.

    Corals are taking up less CO2 as the oceans become more acid.

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  32. Johnno:

    that’s my point, people that argue the science is settled are being disingenuous or simply don’t know enough. The science is most certainly not settled on the rate of change.

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  33. jc

    If you mean by “rate of change” something like “awful – but we don’t know whether just awful or really awful” I would agree. But the science is settled as far as

    – it’s happening (temperature records)

    – it’s fossil fuel CO2 that’s doing it (isotope analysis)

    – it’s causing a minimum heat imbalance of around 3 watts per M2 (straight physics)

    – this has a lag time for effects in decades, and a response time for amelioration also in decades if not centuries (basic physics, chemistry, numerous observations)

    – without rapid major cuts in CO2, this will raise average gobal temperatures by 2C in less than a century (that is, raise the global average temperature by over 10%) (physics, 50 years of observations)

    – research on crop response, ecosystem response, ocean response all suggest this will severely stress systems we are critically reliant on. As ecologies are very complex, prediction of effects is difficult, but analogous responses to major shocks (eg with fisheries) suggests these often lead to major loss of total system productivity, and sometimes to irreversible change to low-productivity systems (one great book on ecological state changes is Geerat Vermeij’s Nature: an Economic History. He is, of all things, a blind marine biologist!)

    sorry – sometimes get lost in the brackets

    Does this look to you a fair summary of where the science is at? And if it does, doesn’t it look like a good case for quick action?

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  34. PT:

    I’m not certain you can be so sure with the rate of change, as the science isn’t really settled in that respect at all. Hence why the IPCC gave what I think is a pretty wide estimate and why they offered no confidence levels within the range, or rather used language to demonstrate uncertainty in that area.

    You also need to ponder why not one of the models predicted this decade’s flat-lining or slow down in temperature creep.

    I think the science is the easy part.

    It’s how we organize ourselves that is the hard bit.

    For instance if you’re really really worried about AGW you would go for nuclear power and perhaps hold your nose and offer a 20 year tax holiday to the operators. That’s if you want to eliminate emissions over a 30 year period or even faster depending on the availability of electric cars.

    The ETS without nuke is not going to do it.

    The other side is that I’m sceptical on the intervention as I’m not certain that the benefits of a molested GDP outweigh that of an unmolested GDP where the growth trajectory isn’t leveled off somewhat.

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  35. Fair enough, except that

    – as the research comes in, the IPCC projections look more conservative (eg on rates of ice melt)

    – on the “flatlining”. see A Warming Pause” at http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/category/climate-science/instrumental-record/

    (I am not qualified to judge the extraction of the signal from the noise, but the line looks ok just to eyeball, and I understand that the conclusion – a steady 0.2C per decade, has been independently blind-tested)

    I do have some experience with issues involving faint signals in a lot of noise, and the failure to predict this does not surprise – it’s inherent in the problem that it’s not predictable past a certain level.

    I agree how we organise is the hard bit. Nuclear is a possible part solution (although the waste issue is still there – still, bad is better than worse)

    On GDP – trouble with this kind of problem is that you can’t be sure that you’ll have a GDP in the current sense of the term if you get it wrong (and you don’t get to try twice). Not trying to be melodramatic – it’s just that system collapses tend to be 1. sudden 2. hard to reverse 3. involve all kinds of unexpected flow-ons, which often involve positive feedbacks making the problem worse.

    An example of a trigger might be if a combination of increased evaporation, heat stress in the growing season and water shortages due to loss of mountain glacier storage dropped food production in critical areas by say 20%, and worldwide by enough to eliminate export food surpluses. This is a plausible scenario even at 2C. Then think that three of the most vulnerable areas are rural central China, India and Pakistan. I am not trying to predict political outcomes – that’s not really possible. I am saying that the framework would be set by a world population under severe food and water stress, facing the need to divert large resources to preserving or adapting infrastructure, and grappling with issues where there is lots of room to play national blame games.

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  36. after reading what all you people have to say your all no better then the people runing this country into the ground and not only that all you who are on here probly voted labour

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