Sunday 20 Oct 2019 | 21:24 | SYDNEY
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Australia and Climate Change

The Lowy Institute has surveyed Australians about their views on global warming and climate change for the past fourteen years. Public support for action on climate change was high in the 2006 Lowy Institute Poll, but then fell consistently until 2012. One explanation for this could be political infighting and leadership churn in Australia, as well as a fierce campaign against a ‘carbon tax’. But the impact of severe droughts is another possible factor.

In a dramatic reversal of attitudes since 2012, however, concern about global warming has been rising steadily over the past six years. In 2019, six in ten Australians (61%) say global warming is ‘a serious and pressing problem’ about which ‘we should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs’. The issue of climate change and global warming continues to split Australians along generational lines. A clear majority (76%) of young Australians aged 18-44 agree with this statement, compared to just half (49%) of their elders.

Below we chart the results of Lowy Institute polling since 2006 on the issue of global warming, accompanied by a timeline of important developments in Australia’s climate policy history.

This is an early release of climate change results from the Lowy Institute Poll 2019. The full report will be released in June. More information on Australian attitudes towards climate change and other foreign policy issues is available at the Lowy Institute Poll interactive.


There is a controversy over what the countries of the world, including Australia, should do about the problem of global warming. I’m going to read you three statements. Please tell me which statement comes closest to your own point of view:

  • Global warming is a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now, even if this involves significant costs.
  • The problem of global warming should be addressed, but its effects will be gradual, so we can deal with the problem gradually by taking steps that are low in cost.
  • Until we are sure that global warming is really a problem, we should not take any steps that would have economic costs.

“Accepting the science”, rejecting the action

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has a problem. Australia’s Pacific Island neighbours urgently want industrialised economies to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions and make policy commitments beyond existing pledges. Senior ministers in the Morrison government, however, do not accept the latest

Climate change is a national security issue

If only a minister of the Morrison government would be as forthright in identifying climate change as a massive destabilising force in Australia’s region as the Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell has been. In a private speech in Bowral in June, General Campbell is reported to have sounded

An orthodox economic take on climate change shocks

In a debate as politically fractious as climate change, it is useful to have credible voices joining the fray. On Tuesday night, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) waded into the waters with a speech by Deputy Governor Guy Debelle. It has immediately been seen as an urgent call to action. More

How to save one million lives, and then millions more

“Climate change is the greatest health challenge of the 21st century”. Such is the conclusion of the latest report by the World Health Organization (WHO), released last month to coincide with the COP24 climate conference in Katowice, Poland. The report makes clear that immediate action on

Finding Australia’s fair share of climate finance

Climate finance was high on the agenda in Paris last month as French President Emmanuel Macron co-hosted the 'One Planet Summit' with the UN and World Bank, preceded by a 'Climate Finance Day' with bankers and major institutional investors. Climate finance has been a central pillar of global

The two Americas at COP23

Before his fall from grace, former Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards used to talk about 'the two Americas' to describe the gap between the poor and the wealthy. But the phrase earned an afterlife, not least to describe the philosophical chasm between the coastal areas that

Climate change will place new pressures on LHD vessels

Greg Colton’s article on Talisman Sabre 2017 highlights Australia’s new amphibious assault capacity through the Landing Helicopter Class (LHD) ships HMAS Adelaide and HMAS Canberra. Colton states that 'for the first time in three decades, Australia now has the military capability to back up its

Three focus points for Turnbull at G20 summit

You have to hand it to Kim Jung Un. In politics, as in comedy, timing is everything. The launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile two days before the G20 summit ensures that North Korea jumps to the top of the Summit's agenda. With one push of the button - probably practically as well as