Australians' environmental concerns in January 2020

Five things you need to know about Australians’ environmental concerns in January 2020.

Issues monitor | Australia | Climate change | Ipsos

The Environment is now clearly the top issue facing Australia and, while the bushfire events created a recent surge in our collective worry, the truth is that the tide of concern has been on the rise for the past couple of years. Download the Ipsos Issues Monitor - a focus on environmental concerns infographic AND check out these five things you need to know about who is worried and why we are so concerned:

  1. Averages can be misleading. Sensibly, we’re not all worried about all issues to the same extent. So, despite Australians – as a collective – selecting The Environment as the top national concern (41%), Millennials (48%) and members of Generation Z (45%) expressed most worry, followed by Boomers (42%) and Generation X (37%). Even though 30% of Builders nominated The Environment as a top national issue, they were actually more worried about Healthcare (40%) and Crime (35%).
  2. Anxiety about climate change is informing a good chunk, but not all, of the worry. When we unpacked the reasons why Australians selected The Environment as a top national concern in January, citizens mostly attributed their worry to climate change, drought and bushfire. Some citizens linked these topics (e.g. climate change = bad drought = conditions for even worse bushfire), and others discussed climate change and drought in relation to natural resource management failings related to water (e.g. bad river management = dead fish) and land (e.g. climate change + high fuel loads = bushfire). Beyond listing their current concerns, many discussed their future worries (e.g. dead fish today, dead planet tomorrow) and some citizens also wrote about an urgent need for Australia to actively transition to more renewable energy sources. The perception that some within government were still struggling to accept that climate change exists was also mentioned as was an appearance of reluctance for government to be proactive in creating conditions that will enable the public and private sectors to kick-off macro solutions. Comments were also made about waste, consumption, population growth and plastics.   
  3. Australians’ growing concerns are part of a global trend. While our circumstances here in Australia are unique, we are not alone in our increased worry regarding environmental issues. For example, citizens from Canada selected the environment as their top national concern in the lead up to the recent federal election. And, just like Australians, residents from the Great North had never been so concerned about matters environmental. Further, the Ipsos Issues Index run out of our London office since the 80's showed that Britons’ concerns around the environment and pollution reached unprecedented levels towards the end of 2019. 
  4. Australians are divided across generational lines as which political party (if any) is best placed to manage this concern. Broadly speaking, the younger you are the more likely you are to believe that The Greens are best placed to manage environmental issues. And, by contrast, the older you are the more likely you are to believe the Coalition is best placed. In January, a relatively high proportion of younger Australians did not know which party was most capable and a relatively high number of older Australians believed that none of them were capable. The ALP was mostly absent from Australians’ psyche when we asked them to about which political party best placed to manage environmental concerns. 
  5. Australians place a very high value on being able to access the natural environment, and this flows through to our future economic security. The Ipsos Life in Australia Report tells us that access to the natural environment is one of the most important attributes when Australians are asked to consider what makes somewhere a good place to live. This is especially true in Regional Australia. Australians believe that the natural environment is one of the things that makes us the lucky country, one of the things that makes us positively unique, a tenant of Brand Australia. As we transition to an economic structure that is more reliant on knowledge in the cities and services / visitors in the regions, our future security very much depends on maintaining a healthy environment. Therefore, anyone who suggests we don’t have any skin in the climate change game because we are a small proportion of global emissions is short-sighted at best and a proponent of dangerous policy at worst.

Content informing this article has been drawn from the Ipsos Issues Monitor – Australia’s longest running ongoing survey of community concerns and the Ipsos Life in Australia Report – the nation’s largest investigation into Australians’ values and liveability. Please reach out if you would like to know more about how better understanding citizens’ concerns, values and lived-experiences can positively impact the services you offer.

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