More Australians than ever believe humans are causing climate change and back renewables as a solution.
More Australians than ever believe humans are causing climate change and back renewables as a solution. Image credit: Jamey Stillings

A new poll released by Essential Research has shown that Australians overwhelmingly agree that climate change is the result of human activity as well as backing renewable energy to secure our future energy supply, over coal.

The 21 February 2017 edition of the Essential Vision poll published by Essential Research found that 60 per cent of those surveyed agreed with the premise that “Climate change is happening and is caused by human activity”. This was an increase from 54 per cent of those polled in December 2016 who agreed with the statement.

It is also the highest level of support for the human contributions to climate change as recorded by Essential Vision.

Support for renewables strong across all voters

Support for the statement was strongest amongst Greens (90%) and Labor (75%) per cent, while just under half of Liberal-National voters agreed that humans were the cause of climate change.

By far, voters see renewable energy as a “solution to our energy needs” with 64 per cent of those polled agreeing, as compared to just 14 per cent who consider renewables to be a “threat to the future energy supply”. Support for renewables was strong across all three of the largest political parties, with a majority of Labor voters (72%), Greens voters (90%) and Liberal-National voters (58%) all supportive of renewable energy.

About the same proportion of voters support the Labor party’s renewable energy target of 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030, with 65 per cent of respondents approving. This also included a majority of Liberal-National party voters, with 55 per cent approving of the opposition party’s renewables target.

Opinion was slightly more split when it came to support for coal, with 31% of voters supporting the construction of new coal fired power stations, while a larger proportion (45%) still opposed new projects.

Just 16 per cent of those polled attributed blame for recent blackouts in the electricity system on there being too much renewable energy in the system. 45 per cent of respondents blamed failures of the energy market to respond to extreme weather events. An additional 19 per cent of voters cited the impact of privatisation of Government constructed energy infrastructure as an underlying cause of system instability.

The poll is likely to be difficult reading for the Coalition Government who have been openly spruiking the prospect of using public funds to invest in the construction of new coal-fired generation projects.

Government proposals a “distraction” – Butler

In a statement, Federal Labor Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Mark Butler labelled the Government’s proposals a distraction.

“Distracting the Australian people with irresponsible and uneconomic plans to use taxpayer money to build coal power plants is just adding to the crisis, not addressing it.” The statement read.

“Since it was first flagged, the government’s coal plan has been criticised by industry groups such as the Australian Industry Group, electricity generators and their peak body the Australian Energy Council and even the very government agency the government wants to use to fund its coal plan, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.”

“All these criticism are based on a few simple facts; new coal plants are more expensive than alternatives like gas and renewables, they are incompatible with Australia’s obligations under the Paris Climate Change Agreement, and they do not provide the flexibility that complements greater uptake of renewable energy.”

With the energy debate currently receiving so much attention, the political implications are significant. Renewable energy clearly enjoys high levels of support amongst voters, who see it as an inevitable part of the energy system and a response to climate change.

Meanwhile, it is clear the Government wishes to concentrate on cost and reliability concerns.

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