The number of Australian news consumers who consider climate change to be “not at all serious” is over twice the global average, according to an international survey that tracks changes in news consumption, attitudes and habits.
The Digital News Report: Australia 2020 was conducted earlier in this year by the University of Canberra and forms part of a long-running international study of 40 nations by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford.
Age, gender and geographical location are all factors that contribute to an individual’s likely level of climate change concern.
"Young people are much more concerned than older generations, women are more concerned than men and city-dwellers think it’s more serious than news consumers in regional and rural Australia,” the report’s co-author Caroline Fisher and lead author Sora Parkwrote in the Conversation. “More than half of respondents (58%) say they consider climate change to be a very or extremely serious problem, 21% consider it somewhat serious, 10% consider it to be not very and 8% not at all serious.”
The 8% of climate “denier” respondents — those who state it is “not at all serious” — is among the highest across all surveyed countries, surpassed barely by the United States and Sweden, at 12% and 9%, respectively.
The percentage of Australian consumers who view climate change as an extremely or very serious problem is also lower than the global average by 11%.
Beyond age, gender and location, an individual's level of concern about climate change is also determined by the news brands and sources they most engage with and their political orientation.
Eighteen per cent of those who label themselves as right-wing claim climate change is “not at all serious,” against 7% of those with a centre political orientation and 2% of left-wing respondents.
Overall, just under 40% of surveyed Australians consider climate change coverage by the media to be truthful, fair and unbiased.
While over 50% say they engage with climate change news through traditional platforms like TV, online, radio and newspapers, 15% claim they pay no attention to news on climate change at all — a rate double the global average.
“Given climate change impacts everyone, this lack of engagement is troubling and reflects the difficulty in Australia to gain political momentum for action,” Fisher and Park told the Conversation.