What do you think about when you think about Australians?
I think about the First Australians and those that followed 60,000 years later from all parts of the globe. I think about farmers with dirt caked under their fingernails and teachers at the front of the classroom (or zoom, as it is these days).
I think tradies in utes and miners in steel-capped boots. I think elite athletes, lovable larrikins, baristas and nonnas.
Australians are diverse and it makes for a special country.
Some politicians tell us this diversity is a problem when it comes to agreeing on climate action: That city-slickers want action and country folk don’t. That people in coal and gas communities want coal and gas to stay. That Aussies don’t care enough about climate change to vote for it.
To understand whether this was true, the Australian Conservation Foundation asked respected pollsters YouGov to conduct the biggest survey ever undertaken of Australians’ opinions on climate change.
YouGov polled a nationally representative sample of more than 15,000 Australian voters on a range of questions on climate change. They combined the polling data with census data to predict the sentiment of Aussies in every federal electorate in the country. This cutting-edge method has never been used in Australia before but was proven when it accurately predicted the results of the last UK general election – even at electorate level.
This poll reveals a groundswell of voters flagging climate change as a key election issue and continuing widespread support for clean energy solutions.
A majority of Aussies in every single federal electorate in the country wants our national government to do more to combat climate change.
It shatters the myth there’s one view in the bush and a different one in the city. One-in-three voters in inner city electorates and one-in-four voters in rural electorates say climate change is the most important issue for them at the next federal election.
The poll shows Australians firmly reject the government’s ‘gas-led recovery’.
Not a single electorate had majority support for new gas and coal-fired power. Instead, there was overwhelming support for renewables.
Voters in Queensland’s ‘coal country’ – electorates such as Flynn, Maranoa, Capricornia, Kennedy and Dawson – and in the NSW Hunter Valley believe that coal and gas should not be part of Australia’s future energy supply. Even the seat with the lowest levels holding this view – New England – it is still the majority view (55 per cent).
It shatters the myth there’s one view in the bush and a different one in the city.
This is a wake-up call for Barnaby Joyce, Matt Canavan, George Christensen and Joel Fitzgibbon, who are standing in the way of climate action. And to the Prime Minister and Minister Angus Taylor, who are quite frankly trying to hoodwink Australians that they are doing enough on climate change.
Fellas, you’re not representing your constituents. Worse, you are standing in the way of the wealth and jobs that will flow from Australia becoming a clean energy superpower.
A switched-on government would see Australia has so much to lose by letting climate change rip – and so much to gain by leading the charge to cut emissions.
If we ramp up action now, industrial hubs in Queensland could be pumping out green hydrogen, steel and aluminium within the decade.
Inland regions of New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory could be generating clean energy from the sun while Tassie, Victoria and the ACT pump wind power into the grid.
We’ll need a lot of renewable energy as we electrify everything from cars and trains to homes and industry.
Farmers are there too with their moves to make agriculture sustainable and sequester carbon in soil.
Australia could be the envy of the world, but we desperately need national leadership to coordinate this push. And we need it fast.
The latest IPCC report tells us the window to avoid runaway climate change is closing. We must cut climate pollution this decade. 2050 is too late.
Of course, we don’t need climate reports to tell us climate damage is here, now.
Australians are feeling the heat and breathing the smoke from the climate fuelled heatwaves and bushfires that plague our nation.
More delay means greater danger. Every decision matters. Every tonne of pollution matters. This is a race.
The Morrison Government’s weak climate policies have been called out by our allies in the UK, USA and Europe, unhappy that Australia is not pulling its weight in the global effort. The pressure will mount at the United Nations’ Glasgow climate summit in November, where leaders are expected to bring stronger commitments to the table.
Our political leaders should listen to Australians – in all our glorious diversity. We want them to do more on climate change and make Australia better for every Australian.
Header image: Annette Ruzicka, MAPgroup