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Climate change concerns cooling off

- Sunday, November 08, 2009

A number of reports and surveys released over recent weeks have identified that voter concerns about climate change, and their perceptions of the need for urgent action, are cooling. What this means for the progress of international and domestic policy measures is unclear, although it seems likely to reduce political pressure for action, especially in the short term.

Highlighting the cooling of voter concerns,a Lowy Institute poll  (The 2008 Lowy Institute Poll) conducted over three successive years plots a steady decline in voter concerns on the issue, with it falling from first place to fifth in order of importance. This trend is also reflected in quite a number of international surveys.

The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) reflected the sentiment of voters in a recently released piece of research (Sustainable development: Have we got our priorities right?) looking at what should be the highest order environmental priorities for New Zealand. Their conclusion was that there are a number of environmental issues that should be accorded a higher ranking than climate change.

In his recent speech to the Lowy Institute, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd opined that this fall in voter concerns about climate change is occurring globally and in Australia as a result of the work of skeptics, who continue to question and challenge the accepted science of climate change.  The speech indicated a firm resolve to press on with policy measures, irrespective of the apparent change in voter sentiment.

Perhaps a lesson for Governments is that more robust and transparent modelling of policy impacts is a better way to secure sustained support for a policy.  
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