NZ Climate attitudes survey – Expert reaction

New Zealanders are worried about climate change, but uncertainty is widespread, according to survey results released today.

climate-change-affects-animal-distribution_155A new report, from economic and public policy research group Motu, analyses the results of a commissioned survey examining the climate change attitudes and actions of about 2200 New Zealanders.

The full report is available here, and a press release from Motu can be accessed here.

Some key findings from the survey:

  • The majority of respondents were concerned about the potential effect of climate change on themselves (63%) and society (58%)
  • Just over half (53%) agree that there is a scientific consensus on climate change
  • Only around half of those polled (49%) agreed they were certain that climate change is really happening, with 24% undecided and 28% disagreeing

The survey also found that the most common climate change mitigation actions Kiwis were planning to undertake in the next year were: installing energy efficient light bulbs (73%); conserving water (69%); and reducing air-con, heating and lighting use (62%).

The research comes as the New Zealand Government is undertaking an extensive public consultation on how the country should approach it’s international climate change agreements.

The SMC collected the following expert comments. Feel free to use these quotes in your reporting. If you would like to contact a New Zealand expert, please contact the SMC (04 499 5476;

Dr Fabien Medvecky, Lecturer, Centre for Science Communication, University of Otago, comments:

“The newly published report “From Fact to Act: New Zealanders’ Beliefs and Actions on Climate Change” from Motu Economic and Public Policy Research clearly shows that New Zealanders perceive climate change as less important as it used to be, and many do not see climate change as important.

“The interesting question is why? Why do we often not care much about climate change, and why do we care less than we did just 7 years ago? I think this is a question left unanswered here, but I also think the report suggest important ways we might talk about and make progress on climate change.

“Firstly, why do we often not care much about climate change and why has there has been a shift in opinion (a drop from 75% of New Zealanders thinking climate change an urgent or immediate problem in 2008 to only 53% in 2012)? While this report doesn’t directly touch on this, other international reports do so more directly. A common thread through these is that people feel impotent to act on their own, and there is a perceived lack of government leadership, a view hinted at in the Motu report.

“Put simply, this is a job that requires more than individual’s effort to make an impact. I would have liked the survey to have asked something along the lines of, ‘Who do you think should drive efforts on tackling climate change?’

“Secondly, about making progress on climate change, I see one really big take home message from the report. It is that climate change (like much of our lives) is perceived to be much less about information and knowledge, and more about economics and how well we can live our lives.

“Financial factors were viewed as the most influential drivers of decisions behind how we act (as individuals) on climate change, with around 15% of New Zealanders claiming cost is a trigger for action compared to only 6% claiming knowledge was a factor. Likewise, two thirds of New Zealanders said financial support would motivate them to act, where a little under half said additional information would do so.

“This is important because we usually frame climate change as an environmental issue and an information challenge for science, but maybe we should be framing it as a financial issue that affects the back-pocket.”