Sunday, August 31, 2008

Australians would dig deep to fight climate change

Good news for the government implementing an ETS. We won't stand in your way (but woe betide it turns out trust is misplaced).

A MAJOR survey of Australians' views on climate change has found an overwhelming majority think it is happening and they're prepared to pay to address it.

The study by University of Technology Sydney found Australians wanted to see cuts in the nation's greenhouse gas emissions irrespective of the actions of other countries.

The key findings include that 83.7 per cent believed global warming was occurring and, of those, 84.9 per cent said Australia should proceed with an emissions trading scheme (ETS) regardless of the international response. "The bottom line from this study is that Australians think now is the time to adopt a climate change program that has some real teeth," visiting economics professor at UTS Richard Carson said.

"They believe that climate change will cause serious problems in Australia and elsewhere in the world, and they understand there will be sizeable cost going along with it."

We want the revenue an ETS will earn, to help low-income earners cope with the changes, and middle income earners want the GST reduced. Will it be an unnecessary tax, after the cost of pollution becomes a production input?

An interesting question about the role of government arises. Is it more efficient to tax consumption, or 'externalities', that is, the social cost of pollution.

And most want 20 percent of the ETS revenue to be dedicated to climate change R&D.

Professor Carson said 58.7 per cent of participants supported spending 20 per cent of ETS revenues on R & D, in keeping with a recommendation of the Rudd Government-commissioned Garnaut Review.

"The public clearly favours spending 20 per cent of the money on R & D … even though we told them that if they did that they would redistribute less money to the public," he said.

"That shows the Australians are very forward-looking, they see it as a long-term problem and the R & D efforts will help them get over the hump."

Survey participants' views were also sought on the different government plans and opposition policies to tackle climate change.

A majority (57.1 per cent) supported the government's plan to begin emissions trading from 2010 over the Liberals' later 2012 start date.

Participants were quizzed on their political leanings and Professor Carson said Green and Labor voters were more likely to favour the government's plan.

Interestingly, more than half (53 per cent) of Liberal-aligned survey participants also favoured the earlier 2010 ETS start date instead of official policy held by the Federal Opposition.

Views were split on whether transport should be exempt for the first three years of the ETS - with just over half (50.6 per cent) for the move to temporarily delay price increases at the petrol bowser.

The study, entitled Survey on Controlling Greenhouse Gases, was conducted by the UTS Centre for the Study of Choice.

Professor Carson is a Professor of Economics at the University of California and is a Visiting Distinguished Professor at the UTS.

These figures are consistent with other surveys. If this survey gets media traction, it's the death-knell for the AGW denial industry.

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