Climate Change: CSIRO Axes Annual Attitudes Survey


The CSIRO has cancelled its annual survey of Australians' attitudes to climate change and won't release the results of its 2014 study until late this year.
The delay, says Labor, means the public will miss out on information that counters the Abbott government's "scare campaign" on climate issues.
The science agency had conducted the annual survey for five years, mostly in July and August, often polling the same people to create a long-term view of how Australians view global warming and their support for action.
In the most recent published report, released in February 2014, about 40 per cent of the 5219 people surveyed had participated in a previous study.
In the 2013 poll, 86 per cent agreed with the statement that climate change was occurring and 7.6 per cent disagreed.
CSIRO conducted another survey last year but the findings will be about 14 months old by the time it is released. It is understood financial constraints are a factor behind the change.
The CSIRO's funding has been cut several times in recent years, including $111 million in the first Abbott government budget. The cuts were expected to lead to the loss of as many as a fifth of its staff over two years.
"We are currently in the process of analysing the results, which will be communicated by the end of the October," a spokeswoman said. "We have no plans at the moment for further surveys."
News of the cancelled surveys comes as the Abbott government is expected to release its post-2020 carbon reduction goals on Tuesday that it will take to the global climate summit planned for Paris starting November 30.
The government on Tuesday announced Australia would aim to reduced greenhouse gas emissions by about 26-28 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030.
That goal, which is about a 19 per cent reduction on 2000 levels, would be among the least ambitious by an industrialised nation, according to data compiled by the Climate Change Authority. Australia should be aiming for a 40 to 60 per cent reduction by then, the agency said in a recent report.
Most surveys find Australians overwhelmingly support action on climate change, with about two in three people saying the government should take the issue more seriously, according to a report released on Monday by the Climate Institute.
A spokeswoman for Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said the issue was one for the CSIRO to address: "CSIRO manages its own day-to-day decisions and allocation of resources, so it's not something the Minister would comment on."

'Sick' of reports
"Tony Abbott is sick of all the reports that show Australians want climate change action," said Mark Butler, Labor's climate change spokesman.
"This is obviously at odds with Tony Abbott's views on climate change, and he would prefer to keep ignoring the problem," Mr Butler said. "Removing this important report from the public domain shows Tony Abbott's general disregard for science, but also his frustration that his scare campaigns on climate change are not working."
Greens deputy leader and environment spokeswoman Larissa Waters said the government's "pathetic" carbon reduction targets indicate it is beholden to its "big polluting donors".
"The Abbott government needs to start listening to everyday Australians scientists and the international community, instead of blocking his ears and acting as a puppet for the dying coal industry," Senator Waters said.
Last year's report found that attitudes to climate change had "remained relatively stable since 2010", with repeat respondents increasing their levels of trust in agencies "including environmental group scientists and government scientists to provide truthful information about climate change".

Stable view
Separately, a study by researchers in the US and CSIRO, has found that public acceptance and support for action on carbon pricing held steady during the two weeks before and after the 2013 federal election.
Despite the carbon tax issue being one of the most contentious during the run-up, support remained little changed during the elections, the researchers including Iain Walker, who works at CSIRO and the University of WA, found.
"[T]he carbon pricing legislation was not as unpopular as many, especially on the conservative side of politics claimed, with nearly half of the population finding the policy acceptable..," according to the paper published this week in the Nature Climate Change journal.
Acceptance of carbon prices was higher than support for the policy, however, implying that future proponents of such policies should design their approach to deal with acceptance and support differently, the researchers said.
"Future research should attempt to disentangle opposition from lack of support, ambivalence from apathy, and 'rejection' from 'resistance'," the paper said.

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