Why no Coalition leader can back a carbon price

Essential Research has more polling today on the complex politics of climate change. There is still a small plurality – 47% versus 43% – in favour of taking action on climate change soon, and only 19% who say that we don’t need to take any action at all. That latter figure is consistent with the 18% Newspoll found late last year who said they don’t believe in climate change at all. So the hardcore sceptics are still significantly outnumbered.

But some of those who say we should act now lose their nerve when it comes to any actual plan to do something now.

Continue reading “Why no Coalition leader can back a carbon price”

Selling a carbon tax to an unconvinced public

Today Julia Gillard took important further steps on the way to a carbon price.

The IPA also put out another Galaxy Poll on climate science. It’s almost exactly the same as their poll from last year, suggesting that the substantial inroads the sceptics had made have stabilised.

However a comparison with an Essential Research poll from last December suggests that attitudes are still fluid. An option in Galaxy reading ‘There is conflicting evidence and I’m not sure what the truth is’ takes numbers from both both camps.

So it looks like about a third of the population are manmade climate change true believers, with another 10% leaning that way. We’ve debated this recently, but I think things are looking bad for Julia Gillard on this one.

The continuing cooling of climate change belief

Maybe I’ve just stopped listening, but my impression is that there are many fewer climate change catastrophe stories in the media now than a couple of years ago. This may be contributing to the on-going cooling of belief in the science and politics of climate change which became evident last year.

Today’s Essential Research survey shows that less than half its respondents now believe that climate change is happening and is caused by human activity. However the main shift has been to the ‘don’t know’ category rather than to an option that says weather changes are just normal fluctuations.

This plus already skyrocketing electricity prices make the politics of an ETS diabolical for the Gillard government. Continue reading “The continuing cooling of climate change belief”

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: Continue reading “Climate change hypocrites make ETS backdown sensible politics”

Is the IPA’s climate change poll plausible?

In a Club Troppo comment, online pollster Graham Young questions recent IPA polling on climate change:

From my research it is certainly true that there has been a decline in support in Australia for the proposition that manmade climate change will be catastrophic. And when you ask questions designed to find how high a priority it is, you find Australians aren’t prepared to pay or do much to avoid it. But the IPA poll has a much larger collapse than I would have thought possible.

I’ve tried to compare the IPA’s 2010 results with the Lowy Poll’s 2008 results on how much extra people are prepared to pay to combat climate change. I had to convert Lowy’s monthly question to match the IPA’s annual question, and so the categories are not an exact match. But as you can see in the table below, particularly by comparing the cumulative totals, the overall patterns are quite similar.

The main difference is that the IPA found significantly more people willing to pay nothing at all. But if we add together the people willing to pay nothing with those only willing to pay a trivial amount we have a consistent just under half of the population who oppose all but the most trivial climate change measures. Continue reading “Is the IPA’s climate change poll plausible?”

Will Clive Hamilton reflect on ‘alarmist’ failures?

Clive Hamilton’s series of articles on the climate change debate at The Drum is not yet complete, but what’s missing so far is any self-reflection. Things have gone wrong for the alarmist camp, but the fault according to Clive seems to lie entirely with other people.

For instance I agree with Hamilton that behaviour in this debate has been poor – but poor on both sides, not just the sceptic side. I complained years ago about the ‘McCarthyist’ tactics of the alarmists, and their outrage at any dissent from the official line.

Not only has this approach helped provoke attacks in response and alienated people not strongly committed to either side, but it probably contributed to the broader political shortcomings of the alarmists. As I showed in a recent Policy article, in public opinion the alarmists have had the upper hand for 20 years. Their political imperative wasn’t to stamp out the last remnants of dissent on the science, but to convert belief in the science into support for practical measures to reduce carbon emissions. There was an opportunity cost to chasing down every sceptic offering a view.

The other tactical problem with the alarmists was their focus on scaring people rather than trying to sell a more positive message. Continue reading “Will Clive Hamilton reflect on ‘alarmist’ failures?”

Support for ETS slips below 50%

The latest climate change Morgan Poll finds that support for the government’s ETS has fallen below 50% for the first time, and is now at 46%, compared to 50% last November and 55% last August.

This seems to be due to low support (34%) among voters aged 50 or more, as all the other age groups are still at 50% or more.

Though there is no detail on Morgan’s website, a story about the poll in Crikey suggests that the shift is due to the growing partisanship of this issue that I blogged about last month. They don’t give a number for Coalition supporters, but if as Crikey says Labor and Green voters have become more likely to support the ETS, the overall decline must be due to weaker support from Coalition voters.

One curious thing: On the question about whether concerns about global warming are exaggerated the comparisons are all with November poll, omitting any mention of a December poll that asked the same question.

Update: Pollytics has the full results.

The distributional politics of climate change policy

One advantage of the Coalition breaking the parliamentary consensus on an ETS is that more attention is being paid to the actual content and effects of Labor’s scheme. In responding to the Coalition’s ‘new tax’ argument the government has released (to the media, I cannot find any detail online) details of how ‘millions’ of people will be better off under the ETS.

This confirms the Opposition’s point and tries to shift the politics to an old-fashioned redistributional battle. The reason millions of people will be better off is that most lower-income earners will be ‘over-compensated’ for the ETS’s price effects. This is because actual lower-income household carbon emissions will vary considerably, depending on location, housing design, and lifestyle. To ensure that households with carbon emissions at the high end of the normal range are fully compensated, households with low to average carbon emissions will receive additional payments that cover their costs and add more, which can be used to improve their overall standard of living (including consuming more energy!).

This redistribution – along with the handouts to polluters – will be financed by, as Tony Abbott says, a new tax on people with above-average earnings. Take for example a single person earning $80,000 a year. According to the government’s calculations they will be an average $677 a year worse off under an ETS, equivalent to about a 4% increase in income tax. Continue reading “The distributional politics of climate change policy”

Party polarisation on global warming

The latest Morgan Poll on global warming, taken in early December, shows very similar results to the 11-12 November poll. 31% (up 1%) say that concerns about global warming are exaggerated, 50% (down 2%) say that if we don’t act now it will be too late, and 14% (unchanged) say it is already too late.

Though a month is a short time period for public opinion to change, three things have happened that might have affected the results. The first is that the local debate about the ETS and the run-up to the Copenhagen conference have raised the issue’s profile, so more voters may have engaged with the debate and formed or changed their opinion. The second is that ‘Climategate’ has given the sceptics momentum. And the third is that with the Opposition moving to a clear rejection of the ETS, the issue may have picked up more partisanship than before (ie, partisans will go with their party).

Of these possibilities, the Morgan Poll provides most support for the last. Since the November poll, the proportion of Liberals saying that concerns are exaggerated has gone up 5 percentage points to 51%. However, the proportion of Labor respondents saying that concerns are exaggerated went down 4 percentage points to 14%. Though we can’t rule out some issue salience or Climategate effects, these changes look most like the issue becoming even more polarised on party lines.

And yet more ETS polling

As reported in most detail at Pollytics blog, Nielsen asked a series of climate change questions in its survey over the weekend.

As in a June Nielsen poll and September Newspoll, about two-thirds of November Nielsen respondents supported the general idea of an ETS. However, when asked about the ‘specific Emissions Trading Scheme agreed between the Government and the Opposition Leadership’ a ‘don’t know enough’ option scored a massive 72%.

Only 51% of respondents think that the ETS will have a positive effect on the environment, suggesting that at least 15% support the ETS despite it having no positive effects on the environment (a not ridiculous position, if their logic is that while the Australian ETS will have negligible positive effects it will contribute to a global effort that may be effective). 45% think that the ETS will have a negative effect on the economy, while 22% think that it will have a positive effect.

On tactics, 44% of those favouring an ETS and 61% of those opposing it think Australia should wait until after the Copenhagen conference before settling on an ETS. Continue reading “And yet more ETS polling”