Climate Change Increases in Importance in Australia and the World

A new global study by Ipsos, carried out online among adults across 28 countries between February 22 and March 8, 2019, finds that while people worldwide have a myriad of concerns when it comes to environmental issues, climate change has climbed in importance since last year.

Among the top findings are:

  • More than a third of people around the world think that global warming/climate change (37%), air pollution, (35%), and dealing with the amount of waste we generate (34%) are among the top three environmental issues facing their country. Concern for these issues has grown since last year.
  • Australians are more concerned than the global average when it comes to global warming/climate change (44%), dealing with the amount of waste we generate (38%) and future energy sources and supplies (35%) and overpopulation. However, we are far less concerned about air pollution (15%), water pollution (13%) and deforestation (16%).
  • Australia ranks ninth worldwide in thinking that global warming/climate change is a top issue, just ahead of Great Britain (42%) and behind the US (47%).
  • Australians are more sceptical than most when it comes to our perceptions of the effectiveness of policy actions that could be taken to tackle non-recyclable product waste. We are below the global average when considering which policy actions would be effective, aside from taxing non-recyclables (30% of Australians believe this would be effective, compared to 31% globally).
  • Most would prefer making individual-level lifestyle changes such as re-using disposable products (62%) and buying products made from recyclable materials (49%), rather than take actions that limit their access to consumer items such as stopping going to shops that use a lot of non-recyclable packaging, paying extra for goods with non-recyclable packaging, or paying extra taxes to improve recycling facilities.

Key Australian findings

  • Australians’ top three environmental issues are global warming/climate change (44%), dealing with the amount of waste we generate (38%), future energy sources and supplies (35%)One quarter also nominated overpopulation (26%).  Compared to the 2018 results, global warming/climate change has increased (up 9%), dealing with the amount of waste we generate is up 3%, while future energy sources and supplies is down 5%.
  • Eight in ten Australians (78%) are concerned about the effects of plastic on the environment, however, that makes us one of the least concerned nations surveyed, with only 8 nations less concerned.
  • The most popular policy actions among Australians are forcing government spending to improve the range of recyclable items (44%), taxing shops that use non-recyclable products (30%), and taxing these products to increase their price (31%). For all but one of the surveyed policies, Australians were equal to or below the global average. The big movers compared to 2018 included forcing government spending to improve the range of recyclable items (up 4%), the government ‘naming and shaming’ shops that use a lot of these products (up 3%), and fining households that do not recycle enough (up 4%).
  • The most popular personal actions for Australians were re-using disposable items (62%), buying products from recycled materials (49%), and stop buying goods that have non-recyclable packaging (38%).
  • Australians were one of the most likely to believe that everyone (companies, government, consumers) is responsible for finding a way to reduce unnecessary packaging with 46% agreeing with this statement (versus a global average of 39%).

Ipsos Australia Director, David Elliott, said: “The findings show that more people around the world and in Australia are concerned about climate change and plastics in the environment than ever before. Australians are actually more concerned about all of these issues than the global average. 
“We are relatively supportive of some government interventions to tackle the problem of plastics. For example, 44% of Australians support additional government spending to ensure we can recycle a wider range of materials. With China taking less of the world’s plastic over the past couple of years, that shows some support for homegrown solutions.”