20 Sep 2010

Climate change lower priority - survey

2:38 pm on 20 September 2010

A survey shows those questioned rank climate change as a low priority and are concerned about the costs involved in tackling it.

The telephone poll of 500 people was conducted by UMR Research on behalf of business lobby group Greenhouse Policy Coalition.

The coalition represents the largest greenhouse gas emitters, including the aluminium and steel smelters, and Fonterra.

Of a list of 10 common issues, climate change rated bottom in order of importance among those surveyed.

The proportion of people agreeing that climate change is a serious issue fell to 36%, from almost 43% last year.

The Coalition's executive director, David Venables, says people appear more concerned about jobs.

The survey found 23% of people agree the country should reduce its emissions if it means reducing New Zealand's standard of living.

Almost half of those surveyed said climate change is happening, and is caused by humans. The survey had a margin of error of 4.4%.

Survey skewed, says Greenpeace

Greenpeace climate campaigner Simon Boxer says the survey questions carry the assumption that acting on climate change is going to cost jobs and harm the economy.

In fact, he says, the evidence shows that New Zealand needs to act on climate change to keep its clean, green image and preserve jobs.

Victoria University Institute of Policy Studies director Jonathan Boston says it's a small poll with loaded questions, but people who care about climate change will find it encouraging.

"Notwithstanding all the other issues that people have to concern themselves with in their normal day to day life, a very substantial proportion of the population still regard climate change as a very serious concern."

Professor Boston says extreme weather events such as Southland's snow storm, Pakistan's floods and Russia's heatwave help remind people that climate change cannot be ignored.