The number of people that reject climate change in Australia is more than double the global average, according to a global study that looked at news consumers.
The findings made Australia one of the top three countries in the world in terms of the percentage of people who just don’t believe the science — and guess who else is on that list?
The Canberra University published the “Digital News Report: Australia 2020”, an online survey that was part of a global study looking at news consumption in 40 countries. More than 2,000 Australians were surveyed and 8% said climate change is “not at all serious”, placing Australia only behind Sweden (9%) and the US (12%).
This means Australia has almost three times as many climate change deniers as the global worldwide average, estimated at 3%.
Meanwhile, on the other end, 58% of Australians said climate change is a very or extremely serious problem — significantly less than the global average of 69%. Only ten countries in the survey were less concerned about the issue than Australia.
The survey also showed that the level of concern about climate change is highly influenced by age, gender, place of residence, and the type of news consumed. Young people were more concerned than older generations, women were more concerned than men and people living in the city tended to think it was a more serious issue than those living in regional and rural Australia.
About 15% of Australians said not to pay attention to news regarding climate change, which is more than double the global average (7%). Right-wing news consumers were more likely to ignore news about climate change than left-wing consumers, and less likely to trust the accuracy of the reporting. Only 36% of Australians described climate change reporting as accurate.
Many factors can explain the figures, Caroline Fisher, co-author of the report and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Canberra, told VICE – including the fact that Australia’s economy heavily relies on fossil fuels, the national government’s climate denialism and the many right-wing voices in media outlets in the country.
“We [also] have an aging population, and older people are much less concerned about climate change than young people. [Plus] there are conservative voices in the media and the debate is very partisan along the left and right—and we see that in news consumption,” she added.
Fisher, along with her colleague and lead author Sora Park, identified “a strong connection between the brands’ people use and whether they think climate change is serious.” For example, more than a third of the people who watch Sky News or Fox News (two conservative networks owned by the Murdoch family, known for their climate change denial) see climate change as “not at all” or “not very” serious.
University of Canberra journalism lecturer and Guardian columnist Greg Jericho questioned news organizations that “devote large space and time” to climate deniers. “They should reconsider how they are telling the stories, and think more about how to reach those who are not currently listening,” he added.
The survey was conducted during the late stages of Australia’s unprecedented 2019/20 bushfire season. Fires rapidly spread across all states to become some of the most devastating on record. An area about the size of South Korea, roughly 25.5 million acres, has burned. At least 33 people died and around 3,000 homes were destroyed. The events also highlighted Australia’s major climate divide, and how the country’s climate change deniers have adapted their tactics in recent years.