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Sunday, March 7, 2021

Australians fear climate change more than catching Covid, survey shows

A new survey has found Australians are more afraid of climate change than catching Covid-19 – and they want government to do something about it.

The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer asked 1,350 Australians questions on a range of topics between October and November 2020.

While the survey found that Australians were most immediately concerned with job security after the pandemic, climate change ranked as the second biggest issue of concern – even above risks posed by the pandemic itself.

More than four in five respondents reported that they were concerned about losing their jobs, with two-thirds saying their hours had been slashed during the pandemic.

Beyond immediate material concerns, the next biggest issue was the need to tackle climate change with 66% saying they were worried about its effects and – a feeling that has grown since the last survey: 32% said it was more important now than ever.

In addition, 36% people said they were more afraid of climate change than they were of contracting Covid-19. Only 25% of respondents were worried about the risk of infection.

The survey also found that during the pandemic trust had grown for every major institution except technology, with government, business, NGOs and media all recording gains.

While trust in government grew 12 points to 59%, one of the most trusted relationships Australians had was with their employers, with 78% saying they trusted their own boss over business more broadly.

Yet more than two-thirds also said they wanted their bosses to address social issues and act to fix problems where the government did not.

Though it was not top of the list, Michelle Hutton, CEO of Edelman Australia, said on the whole Australians had far more trust in government than the “dramatically lower” rates recorded in the US and UK.

“The astonishing gains in trust we’ve seen across the board tells us that Australians are responding well to how institutions have behaved through the pandemic,” Hutton said.

“Amid last year’s bushfires, we saw the environment emerge as a top concern for 89% of Australians, and throughout 2020, many of us have experienced first-hand the dramatic impacts of climate change as our regional communities struggled to recover.

“What’s interesting, however, is that more Australians are concerned about climate change than they are about contracting Covid-19 – suggesting there’s a rising awareness of the long-term, potentially calamitous impact to society.”

The growing concern over climate change reinforces the results of a December 2020 Guardian Essential poll of 1,032 voters that found growing support for tackling the issue through a range of policies.

These included banning fossil fuel companies from making political donations and a faster transition to a carbon-neutral economy.

Three in four voters surveyed at the time also said they wanted a more ambitious emissions reduction target of net zero by 2030, rather than the net zero by 2050 emissions being discussed.

When broken down along party lines, support for a 2050 target was not only high among Labor and Greens voters, but three-quarters of those identifying themselves as Coalition supporters.

The Edelman survey’s findings showing a growing trust in government adds to those from the Scanlon Foundation’s Mapping Social Cohesion Report.

The survey of 3,000 people released in December last year found trust in government had spiked dramatically during the pandemic as the federal response received an 85% approval.

Another 55% of respondents to that survey had a broad faith in government to generally “do the right thing” – a significant increase on previous years. Trust in government averaged 32% over the last 13 years.

These findings come in the context of a horror year in which Australians lived through a catastrophic bushfire season that burned 18.6m hectares and a global pandemic.

They suggest a newfound trust in core institutions after having to rely on government for direct financial support and health information during the pandemic – a series of direct interventions by government many would now like to see directed towards the climate crisis, at a time when the Coalition government is increasingly exposed on the issue.

In recent weeks the government was criticised for releasing a “do nothing” electric vehicle strategy while the UK has called for Australia to be hit with carbon tariffs over its inaction.

This post courtesy of Guardian-Climate

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