Australians' strong renewables backing

26 July 2012

As reported yesterday, the Climate Institute launched Climate of the Nation 2012 which is an annual research piece that seeks to understand the attitudes of Australians regarding climate change and energy.

While this year’s report finds that Australians are exhausted by the politics around climate policy and are somewhat confused on climate change science their vision of a low-carbon future is crystal clear: they want renewable energy.

For the last few years climate change and its solutions have been the target of a well-oiled campaign against innovation, efficiency and clean energy investment.

This campaign has included vitriolic attacks directed at highly regarded members of the scientific community, vain attempts to debunk well-established climate change science and highly inaccurate and misleading claims made about possible solutions such as renewable energy.

What is clear from this is that no matter how certain the science or how innovative and exciting new clean technologies are, there will always be areas of uncertainty that those opposed will seek to exploit.

But the Australian community is seeing through the bluster of climate sceptics and vested interests as their support for and commitment to a clean energy future remains strong.

The Howard government‘s early leadership on the renewable energy target back in 2001 struck a chord with the people that is still resonating.

People do not trust, or agree with the constant attacks from those who continue to peddle conspiracy theories about renewable energy that are ill-informed and usually misleading. While there will always be avenues for the likes of the IPA, ACCI and others to peddle such bluster-filled opinion, the poison pill for them remains: the community like clean energy and they want it to lead the way.

When asked to rank their three most preferred and least preferred energy sources, solar, wind and hydro topped the ladder. Gas is favoured by some but disliked by others while – not surprisingly – coal and nuclear are the least preferred.

Increasing the amount of renewable energy is perceived as the most effective greenhouse gas emission reduction policy, which along with energy efficiency rated well ahead of other suggested measures.

Support for renewable energy manifests itself in countless ways in the Climate of the Nation 2012 report. Even when asked if they support carbon pricing, which draws a pretty low number at 28 per cent, renewables turn the picture much brighter. Support for the carbon pricing laws rises to 47 per per cent when it is correctly explained that all the revenue raised goes to support renewable energy development, and households and business.

The report comes after a period of unprecedented attacks on renewable energy with same old, tired and repeatedly discredited arguments being thrashed around along with a few new myths thrown in for good measure.

The Climate Institute’s findings are consistent with research undertaken by Pacific Hydro, the Clean Energy Council and the CSIRO over almost a decade.

Australians rightly see renewable energy as playing an important role in the reduction of carbon emissions, job creation, preparing Australia for the impacts of climate change, improving health and the local environment, and in building a sense of national pride.

We know that tens of thousands of jobs have already been created in the renewable energy sector, with $10 billion of investment over the last decade, and that more are on offer as the costs drop and global investment in clean energy outstrips fossil fuel investment.

Climate of the Nation reveals that many people identify a strong connection between improved health outcomes and action on pollution and climate change. This link shows the community knows that renewable energy equals cleaner, safer air.

It also reveals that the overwhelming majority of Australians haven’t been budged by the constant negativity and overblown criticisms of those vested interests opposed to cleaner air, regional job creation and a better environment that renewable energy brings to Australia.

Indeed, Australians can see these benefits for themselves everyday as the renewable energy future unfolds before them in identifiable solar panels and wind turbines. In the words of one of the research participants, who is further profiled in the full report:

“They are taking climate change pretty seriously in some parts of the world, much more so than we seem to be here … we are really losing the plot.”

“I’d like to see fairly major [wind and solar] projects … we need to be cleverer about the way we do things.”

Indeed!

{Lane Crockett is General Manager, Australia at Pacific Hydro. This article originally appeared on Climate Spectator}

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