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Australian skeptics outnumber believers say OECD. Globally, 63% don’t want their dollars spent on the environment…

Posted By Joanne Nova On June 10, 2013 @ 7:22 pm In Big-Government,Global Warming | Comments Disabled

The bottom line is that a third of people are concerned enough to be willing to act, a third say they are concerned but are only paying it lip service, and a third are openly skeptical.

What matters is that 63% of people around the world don’t want their governments to take any money from them to address environmental issues.

There is constant media spin that skeptics are a tiny fringe minority. (See Al Gore deny a third of the population. See the BBC call them mavericks and say they give too much weight to “fringe views”.) The marketeers pushing the meme know that many people are swayed away from “extreme” views and towards the dominant paradigm. Life is just “easier” if you follow the herd, so the big-scare campaign scores a free kick if the public believe that skeptics are rare. If the media reported the situation accurately, more people would be happy to sit in the “skeptical” camp as it would be perceived as equally valid.

As usual, those who believe in man-made global warming use every deceptive trick to push their policy, while skeptics simply benefit if the truth is told.

While skeptics just outnumber believers in Australia, around the world about a third of the population is openly skeptical and more say they believe. Campaigners may pool the 46% of people who are are “environmentally motivated” with the 20% who are “technological optimists” (who believe technology will solve environmental problems) to get 66%. That would make two thirds of the population “believers” — but what does “believer” mean when 63% of the population does not want government policies to cost them a cent? It means they don’t believe very much.

Australians are leading skeptics and more polarized than anywhere else

The Australian reports it as “Sceptics put heat on climate change.”

CLIMATE change sceptics outnumber believers, according to an OECD study that shows how the debate has sharply divided Australians

It shows 45 per cent of Australians think environmental dangers are exaggerated and are reluctant to pay for government environmental policies.

In contrast, 42 per cent of Australians believe the environmental challenges are real and think the government should take action, which they are prepared to pay for even if the amount is not matched by other nations.

The most skeptical nations were the Netherlands and Korea. The most polarized: Australia.

The OECD surveyed 12,000 households across Australia, Canada, Chile, France, Israel, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. This survey was carried out in 2011, so the data is already a bit out of date.

There are three main groups: those who are skeptics, those who believe, and the technology optimists who think there is a problem but figure that we’ll find a way to solve the problem.

Most of the graphs here came from this OECD link.

Paradoxes upon paradoxes: We care about the climate, but not if we have to pay

Fig 2.6 is the most important. Contradictions abound. 45% of Australians think it’s overrated, yet nearly 80% say they are willing to sacrifice their lifestyle. But almost all of those people willing to make a sacrifice, don’t want to spend any money at all on it. Therein lies the rub. The ALP fell for the 80% statistic and saw a popular policy, but it’s a vaporous popularity — 7 out of 8 people who “care” won’t sacrifice a dollar for the cause. When tested, concern for the environment is more a badge than a real concern.

  • Over 40% of Australians and people from the Netherlands say “Environmental impacts are frequently overstated.” This is higher than the other countries surveyed.
  • Almost 80% of Australians say they are “willing to make compromised in my current lifestyle for the benefit of the environment.” (The least willing were The Netherlands, (~55%) and the most willing were those in Japan (90%+).
  • Almost 70% of Australians also say “policies introduced by the government to address environmental issues should not cost me extra money”.
  • Around 60% of people also think “protecting the environment is a means of stimulating economic growth.” Which shows how poorly understood the concept of “economic growth” is.


People are more worried about the economy than about the environment

Everywhere bar Israel, people worried more about the economy than about the environment. The Spanish are broke, and they know it. The French are worried they might go the way of Spain.  In Israel people are more concerned about incoming missiles.


Other environmental concerns are more important than climate change

In Australia the main environmental concern is “natural resource depletion”, then “climate change”, then “endangered species”. In France, Spain and the Netherlands, climate change is not even in the top three environmental concerns. Australians were more polarized about the order than other nations. (Graph fig 2.4). The data on age is a mess. Australians were the most split according to age, but it’s muddy and complicated. Nearly a quarter of the over-42′s thought climate change was the most serious threat, but only 10% of the younger (under 42) cohort agree (Graph fig 2.5). This implies 90% of younger people think other environmental issues are more important, and 75% of older people do too. But life is so complex that the other side to this is that younger folk were more likely than older folks to place environmental concerns as among the three most serious overall concerns (Graph fig 2.2). Young people worry more about the environment, and about a range of environmental issues. Older folk worry less, but when they do worry, it’s more likely to be about climate change. Swings and roundabouts I say.


About 30% of Australians are concerned about litter — twice as many as worry about air-quality.  Overall, Australia and Canada and Korea are pretty good places to live. The EU people worry more about air and noise. But Chile, Isreal and Japan seem dirtier and noisier to the people who live there. Nearly 60% of Japanese are not happy about air, litter and noise pollution.

More Australians are concerned about litter than air-quality. Many Japanese are concerned about air, litter and noise.

Old folks take responsibility

So much for the older codgers being selfish and willing to leave their pollution for younger people to clean up: the survey showed that it was the older folk who were most concerned with generational equity. Australians showed one of the strongest correlations between age and concern about generational equity (fig 2.8).

What really matters?

What matters most here is that the media reporting and government spending ought to at least vaguely reflect the population’s views.  There is obviously a high awareness of climate issues, but fully a third of the population are being ignored or called names, put in the “extremist” box of beyond the pale. The believers are in flat out denial that a third of the voters just don’t buy their story, and another third are only lip synching the ritual chant. If there is so much conclusive evidence, why are the “believers” so afraid of open debate, or even of admitting that there are just as many skeptics as there are committed believers?

If voters could vote on this issue alone, clearly democratic nations would not have large environmental slush funds. The green-gravy train survives through coercion, PR and trickery.

If we had only voluntary transactions (a real free market), the green gravy train would run out of money. It’s a moral thing.


OECD (2013) Greening Household Behaviour: Overview from the 2011 Survey, OECD publishing. 24th June 2013. Based on The Environmental Policy and Individual Behaviour Change (EPIC) survey, carried out in 2011.  www.dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264181373-en which forwards to  the OECD page.

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