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Australians Demand Tougher Action to Combat Climate Change

  • Phil Mercer

FILE - Demonstrators from the environmental group Greenpeace paint their faces white to highlight coral bleaching in Sydney, Friday, April 22, 2016.

FILE - Demonstrators from the environmental group Greenpeace paint their faces white to highlight coral bleaching in Sydney, Friday, April 22, 2016.

Support in Australia for action on climate change is at its highest in almost a decade, according to a new report. The survey, compiled by an independent research organization, shows the majority of respondents believe Australia should be a world-leader in solutions to tackle the effects of rising temperatures.

The Climate of the Nation report is Australia’s longest running survey of public views on climate change. It was compiled by the Climate Institute, an independent research body. The survey of 2,000 people showed that most Australians trust the scientific evidence of climate change and believe there are employment and business opportunities in renewable energy.

About 65 percent of respondents want to see Australia lead the world in finding solutions to climate change, up from just over 50 per cent in 2012.

John Connor, the head of the Climate Institute, says attitudes have shifted significantly.

“We have seen conditions now as strong as they have been since 2008 and and certainly up from the lows of 2012 when scare campaigns and attacks on the science were rampant," said Conner.

FILE - Farmer Andrew Higham looks over his parched land on his Gunnedah property in northwestern New South Wales, Australia.

FILE - Farmer Andrew Higham looks over his parched land on his Gunnedah property in northwestern New South Wales, Australia.

Cause and effect

Connor puts those shifting attitudes down to Australians seeing for themselves the effects of changing temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events across the country, including severe storms, droughts and floods.

According to the survey, 90 percent believe the Australian government has a responsibility to help combat the effects of warming temperatures, but Connor says few respondents believe the current center-right administration is doing enough.

“Over two-thirds expect national leadership, but, yes, they only get about 19 percent in good performance," said Conner.

The government has promised to curb greenhouse gas emissions in Australia, which has some of the highest per capita rates of pollution in the world. It has also set a target for 23.5 percent of Australia's electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020.

About 60 percent of Australia’s electricity is currently generated by burning coal.

Australia also has a small but vocal minority of climate change sceptics who believe that man is not responsible for rising temperatures, which they say are part of a natural cycle.

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