Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Survey shows politicians still confused on cl -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: A new survey of politicians shows a clear majority believe climate change
is happening, but many appear to be unsure about some of its consequences.

More than 40 per cent of the Australian politicians who responded to the survey believe the planet
could safely warm by four degrees despite scientific warnings that a global temperature increase of
two degrees or more could be dangerous.

Margot O'Neill reports.

MARGOT O'NEILL, REPORTER: It's been a headline political issue, but just how much do our
politicians know about climate change?

A Queensland University survey of more than 300 federal, state and local government politicians
found that nearly 70 per cent believe human-induced climate change is happening and rate it as one
of Australia's most important challenges.

But there's also confusion about what climate change really means. For instance, 75 per cent of
politicians believe the Great Barrier Reef is threatened by global warming, but only 55 per cent
agree that ocean ecosystems are also threatened, even though the Great Barrier Reef is obviously
part of the ocean's ecosystems.

KELLY FIELDING, INSTITUTE FOR SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH, UNI. OF QLD: I think that really speaks to
the complexity of the issue of climate change. It takes a high level of knowledge, and scientific
knowledge, to really understand the full range of effects.

OVE HOEGH-GULDBERG, GLOBAL CHANGE INSTITUTE, UNI. OF QLD: This is a complex area and I think this
is revealing that even our leaders have trouble sort of getting the core concepts.

MARGOT O'NEILL: Some scientists are alarmed that more than 40 per cent of the politicians who
responded to the survey believe it's safe for the planet to warm by four degrees. Nearly seven per
cent of politicians believe it's safe up to six degrees.

Climate scientists say such rises will probably lead to an escalation of heatwaves, bushfires and
the melting of the polar ice caps.

ANDY PITMAN, CLIMATE CHANGE RESEARCH CENTRE, UNSW: The thing that scared me most of all in the
survey is the temperature question. I find it remarkable that people would think warming of four,
five, six, seven degrees might be loosely defined as safe.

MARGOT O'NEILL: Researcher Dr Kelly Fielding says some stark party political differences were also
evident.

Asked whether the planet is warming because of human activity producing greenhouse gases, 98 per
cent of Greens said yes compared to 89 per cent of Labor, 57 per cent for non-aligned politicians
and 38 per cent of Liberal-National politicians.

Throughout the survey, many more Liberal-National politicians answered "don't know" or "uncertain".

KELLY FIELDING: What you're seeing is greater certainty and belief on the part of the Labor Party
politicians and more knowledge about the specifics of climate change, whereas for the
Liberal-National Party politicians it's greater uncertainty and that uncertainty is creeping
through in terms of being able to respond to sort of specific questions about climate change that
tap into the detail of climate change.

MARGOT O'NEILL: So where do the nation's policymakers get their information from? Overall, only 56
per cent of surveyed politicians trust the world's leading climate science body, the UN
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC, although nearly 70 per cent said they're greatly
influenced by what scientists say.

But again, that depends on party affiliation. 98 per cent of Greens say they're greatly influenced
by scientists compared to 85 per cent of Labor politicians, 54 per cent for non-aligned politicians
and dropping to 44 per cent for Liberal-National politicians.

ANDY PITMAN: We have as a community of climate scientists failed fairly conclusively to communicate
the certainty around the science of climate.

MARGOT O'NEILL: Only 18 per cent of federal politicians responded. Of the entire survey group, 97
were Labor, 73 Liberal-National, 41 were Greens and the remaining 97 described themselves as
non-aligned.

Margot O'Neill, Lateline.