What do Australians think about climate change?

Eight in ten Australians think change is happening and most of those see it as largely human caused.

Eight in ten Australians think change is happening and most of those see it as largely human caused.

Climate change has been a subject of great debate in Australia and around the world in recent years, especially in the face of weather extremes. Results from the 2021 Australian Community Survey show most Australians, some 8 in ten, think climate change is happening. Of those, around half think it is largely human caused. 

Age groups hold different views, with those aged 65 and over being most likely to believe climate change is happening. 

 

Australians’ thoughts about climate change

In recent times, across all our States, Australians have experienced extremes of weather, with raging bushfires followed by ‘unprecedented’ flooding events that continue to set new records. Is this cycle of natural disaster part of a natural variation or is climate change happening? What do Australians believe?

As part of our 2021 Australian Community Survey (2021 ACS) we asked a group of Australians: “Which of the following statements best describes your thoughts about climate change?

Only one in ten (11%) said that they did not think climate change is happening, while another 11% had no idea whether climate change is happening or not.

However, most Australians (79%) think climate change is happening. Of these, 52% think humans are largely causing the change and the other 26% attribute it to a natural fluctuation in Earth’s temperatures.

 

What different age groups think about climate change

Differing views are apparent between age groups. People aged 65 and over are the largest cohort that believe climate change is happening (83%). This compares with only 72% of young people aged 18-34 years that believe climate change is real.

The younger age group of 18 to 34 year-olds were most likely to think climate change is either not happening (15%) or to be unsure (14%).

Around half of Australians aged 50 and over attribute climate change to humans (49 to 50%). However, those aged 35 to 49 years old hold the opinion that humans are causing climate change, the strongest of all age groups, at 56%.

Those aged 65 and over were most likely to think that climate change is just a natural fluctuation in Earth’s temperatures. In fact, some 35% of those aged 65 and over view it as a natural fluctuation, compared with only 18% of young people aged 18 to 34 who hold that view.

 

What Christians think about climate change

Readers may be interested to receive a report on young Christians' and church leaders' views on climate change and their call on the Church to act. The seven-part study, led by Tearfund and conducted by NCLS Research in 2021, examines the views of Millennial and adult Gen Z Christians and church leaders in Australia towards climate change and the role of the Church in taking action to address it. See our article on the Tearfund Climate Change report for more.

 

Authors:
Kathy Jacka
Data Sources:

2021 Australian Community Survey run by NCLS Research, November 2021 (n = 1,286).

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