The latest annual survey on the attitudes of Australians toward climate change has decisive results: the majority of the country wants to see Australia transition to a renewable-powered economy, with concern about the impact of global warming on floods and droughts at an all-time high. 

The independent policy think-tank behind the findings, The Australia Institute, surveyed just under 3,000 people in August. 

Just under 80% of respondents agreed that Australia should “phase out” coal-fired power stations while just under 70% want to see state governments take a leading role in climate action. Two-thirds believe governments should be responsible for checking the legitimacy of net-zero claims by the private sector.

The 2022 report comes during a particularly pivotal time for climate conversation across the country.

The past few months have seen various events spark intense public discourse, namely Australia’s devastating east and south coast floods in March and the release of a July report that labeled the nation’s environment as “poor and deteriorating.”

In May, Australians voted in a new Federal Government, with the climate being the number one priority for voters. 

Below, we highlight some of the main takeaways from the report, including the nation’s overall stance on the profits of fossil fuel companies, attitudes on the ecological disasters most likely to impact people’s way of life and the relationship between taxpayers and climate action.

1. Three-Quarters of Australians Are Concerned About Climate Change

The level of concern felt by Australians on climate change remains at a record high.

This year’s survey result echoes the level of concern recorded in 2021 and maintains the position as the highest since the survey commenced. Across the country, Australians are most concerned about the impact of climate-changed compounded droughts and flooding on food insecurity, with bushfires and species extinction following in second and third place, respectively.

Consistent with previous years, younger citizens are more likely to be concerned than older respondents.

2. 61% of Australians Want to Tax Excessive Profits From Fossil Fuel Producers

The majority of Australians would like to see the Australian Government tax any unforeseen or unexpectedly large profits made by the booming oil and gas industry. Most Australians likewise agree that the billions of dollars spent supporting the industry should instead be redirected to health care, cost of living or climate action.

Last year, Australia's federal, state and territory governments clocked up $11.6 billion in fossil fuel subsidies. Natural disasters, meanwhile, continue to cost the economy $38 billion per year — a figure just under half of the country would like to see covered by fossil fuel companies. 

3. Over Half of All Australians Support Immediately Stopping New Coal, Oil and Gas Projects 

To limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, there can be no new construction on fossil fuel projects — like gas, oil or coal mines — according to the International Energy Agency. It's a declaration agreed to by the majority of Australians. The construction of new coal mines, specifically, is opposed by two-thirds of the country. 

4. 71% of Australians Want the Country to Host a United Nations Conference on Climate

The United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP) is the world’s biggest annual climate conference, and more than two-thirds of the country would like to see Australia step up and host one of the critical climate talks. According to the Australian Institute, hosting the event “could shift Australia’s reputation from climate laggard to regional leader” and bring an array of economic, diplomatic and security benefits. 

Most Australians concur that hosting the event would mean the country would have to adopt a more ambitious climate policy.

COP27 is currently taking place in Egypt — Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has chosen not to attend. 

Albanese says he would like Australia to host COP in 2026.


Defend the Planet

Climate Change Concern at Record-High Among Australians: Survey

By Madeleine Keck