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Survey: Australians Say Man-Made Climate Change Real

December 20, 2009

Most Australians believe climate change is happening now and is caused by human activity, according to preliminary results from a new national survey.

Preliminary results from the survey by the UNSW City Futures Research Centre for the Australian Climate Change Adaptation Research Network for Settlements and Infrastructure (ACCARNSI) have indicated that a large majority ““ 78 per cent ““ of Australians believe climate change is happening now while a further 14 per cent expect it to happen within 10 to 50 years. Also, 75 per cent expect it will have an impact on them personally during their lifetime.

The online survey also found that Australians overwhelmingly believe that climate change is anthropogenic. Only 7 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement: “climate change is NOT caused by human activity”, compared with 90 per cent who disagreed.

City Futures Research Centre director Professor Bill Randolph said the results of the national survey are preliminary ahead of the final report, due early next year. They show that, while worried about climate change, a majority of Australians believe they can do something about it.

“Only one in five ““ 22 per cent ““ thought science would find an answer to climate change but a majority do believe that changing their behavior and lifestyle will make a difference,” Professor Randolph said.

The survey results come as leading climate scientists who prepared the landmark 2009 climate report The Copenhagen Diagnosis released new emissions reduction estimates stating that, by 2020, industrial nations must cut greenhouse gas emissions by around 40 per cent below 1990 levels to secure a decent chance of avoiding dangerous human interference with the climate system.

The Copenhagen Diagnosis authors, who include UNSW Climate Change Research Centre scientists Matthew England, Andy Pitman and Ben McNeil, used IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) projections as well as post-AR4 analysis to estimate that emissions reductions of around 40 per cent from industrial nations are needed to make it likely to keep global warming below 2ºC.

In their report, released 25 November of this year, the authors noted that many nations had publicly recognized the importance of this 2°C limit. They have now released estimates that this 2°C warming threshold could be crossed as early as 2040 unless significant mitigation measures were taken urgently.

The City Futures Research Centre conducted the online survey in November, polling 3,000 people across the six major Australian cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Darwin and Adelaide, with 500 responses in each city.

ACCARNSI, hosted by the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UNSW, is one of eight Adaptation Research Networks under the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility.

The full report of the survey, conducted by Sweeney Research, will be available early in 2010. Final percentages have been adjusted for rounding to the nearest whole number.

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