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What New Zealanders are thinking about climate change

Written By: - Date published: 9:13 am, August 3rd, 2022 - 29 comments
Categories: activism, climate change - Tags: ,

This recently released Ipsos poll was heartening, New Zealanders’ Attitudes & Behaviours Towards Climate Change 2022 (PDF).

Conducted in late May, it asked questions about climate change in the context of the global situation,

Over two thirds of people globally are concerned about the impacts of climate change, both in their own countries and around the world. New Zealanders are the most concerned about the impact of climate change seen globally compared to people in other countries around the world.

There is an increased level of awareness of the urgency of the climate crisis. Compared to last year, significantly more New Zealanders recognise that individuals, businesses and government need to act now.

When asked if they were concerned or not concerned about “the impacts of climate change that are already being seen in your country”, 76% of New Zealanders said they are concerned. 81% are concerned about impacts already being seen in other countries.

Rod Oram, in Newsroom talking about the New Zealand political landscape regarding climate action, said this,

Here are three measures of the passion and urgency Kiwi respondents expressed in the survey:

– 65 percent said if the government does not act now to combat climate change, it will be failing the people of New Zealand (up from 57 percent last year)

– 70 percent said if businesses do not act now, they will be failing their employees and customers (up from 60 percent in 2021)

– 73 percent said if individuals do not act now, we will be failing future generations (up from 62 percent)

I’m highlighting these because the numbers have increased since 2021, and are only going increase further as we experience more extreme weather events in New Zealand and globally and people see the need for urgent action.

And that means we are closer to a sociopolitical tipping point that might see things change fast.

Tipping points are the confluence of events that makes sudden or fast change possible. With climate action this means we could start voting for strong climate-progressive governments, or demand improvement of current public transport systems, or come together in communities and implement potent change strategies locally. We might see the kinds of protest and activist movements arising that complement the work being done in the mainstream, pushing the rate of change faster.

One example is how the pandemic has change attitudes towards tourism. We have slow but steady shifts whereby people in high tourism areas are pushing more strongly now for sustainable tourism models rather than a return to the BAU mass, industrial tourism that is anti-resilient, causes climate pollution and undermines local workers through wage suppression and poor or no work agreements.

What if that steady change increases and people start building new models, and then we have another event that limits our capacity to receive large overseas visitor numbers? A large quake would do it. Another pandemic. Another sharp increase in fuel pricing and/or unavailability. At which point local communities may just go fuck it, we need a stable economy and jobs, and do the mahi to make the transition.

The trick about tipping points is you want them to tip in the desired direction. We want rapid change towards government and business action, as well as society adopting regenerative, life affirming approaches to climate. Rather than tipping towards authoritarian governments with the need for a sense of security outweighing action and instead imposing control and retrenching narratives and actions.

The other trick is being prepared for when they happen so we have more control over which way things tip.

In New Zealand we already have a solid institutional foundation for climate action. Rod Oram again,

…we have an overarching legislative framework (the Zero Carbon Act), the first three carbon budgets for the nation (each successively smaller than its predecessor out to 2035), an independent statutory authority to advise and evaluate (the Climate Change Commission) and a so-far skeletal strategic framework for climate action by sectors (the Emissions Reduction Plan).

What we need now is people who are committed to action to be in positions of power, be that government, local government, NGOs, Marae, work places, our own families and social groups.

The potential is for New Zealand to be a world leader on regenerative societal change.

Less good are the bits in the survey about what we are willing to change personally. Low willingness to change behaviours around things like driving, flying and meat consumption isn’t a surprise. Some of this is lack of opportunity: how much does lack of good public transport lead to people saying they won’t change that in the coming year?

And how much is people still believing that change must be led by government? But I also have to wonder how much is people feeling powerless and not seeing that personal change makes a difference.

What we need now are two intertwined narratives that give people clear, proactive pathways for change that will work in their lives: stories of how we can change (all of us), and stories of how things can work out well.

29 comments on “What New Zealanders are thinking about climate change ”

  1. roy cartland 1

    how much does lack of good public transport lead to people saying they won’t change that in the coming year?

    This is an excellent point. I'm ready to change, in a huge way if necessary (and it is necessary), but I can't do it alone. And that wouldn't make much difference now anyway.

    Scrap air travel and massively ramp up rail? Eliminate freight trucks -> rail? Replace animal meats with newer plant based protein? Vastly improve public transport and ban unnecessary cars from cities? Replace farmland with forests and wetlands?

    • Maurice 1.1

      The elephant in the room is the question of how much compulsion may be needed to achieve those ends and just what level of push back will there be?

    • Robert Guyton 1.2

      Unless society undergoes some sort of mass-epiphany in response to deteriorating conditions, there will have to be compulsion to change. The success of any one country's compulsive action will depend upon that of every other country – that is, a global response. The thought of a global authority setting rules, terrifies most people. The thought of the piecemeal approach we are taking presently and the outcome of that approach, should terrify them more 🙂

      • roy cartland 1.2.1

        So that's why some say the media <- advertising <- the capital system is the fly in the ointment of progress. People aren't going to have that epiphany among all the racket of junk info flowing at them. Advertising demands the noise from the media; capitalism demands advertising (including ridiculous celebrity worship, sports sponsorship, etc).

      • weka 1.2.2

        Here's another potential pathway. Key countries lead strongly on transition and show the way and this makes it easier for another set of key countries to do the same. Twenty Green MPs and more Māori Party MPs after the election in 2023, having the power to enable a Labour government, might be a game changer.

      • pat 1.2.3

        Who is that global authority?

    • kejo 1.3

      We need a larger mindshift than that. I recently came across this wee gem, 'The Great Simplification' a 30 minute youtube movie beautifully produced by Nate Hagens. Dont know if anybody else has seeen it ? regards, Keith

  2. Robert Guyton 2

    A few more powerful storms should do the trick!

    • weka 2.1

      every little bit helps.

    • Scud 2.2

      Well there are a few nasty storms head your way atm & they are tearing through the Great Australia Bright as it left a mess in WA.

      Yes I believe a few jolly bad storms are needed to wake everyone up, but there is going to be a few possible human casualties along the way as well.

  3. pat 3

    The real problems occur when the populace are impacted…and a poll dosnt impact.

    It is all too easy to say "I am concerned about climate change" but does that mean I will change my behaviours in order to address it?…to date the answer is no….writ large.

    • Incognito 3.1

      You didn’t read the Post, did you?

      People already see the impacts of climate change and this has an impact on their opinions and concerns about climate change. The poll takes a snapshot and although it can have some influence on public opinion, its primary objective is not to have an impact as such on what and whom it is measuring.

      • pat 3.1.1

        Unfortunately I did read the post Incognito….and I stand by my comment.

        • Incognito

          Well, in that case, you seem to think that the objective of the poll was to influence while I think it was to measure opinion and influence of observed impacts of climate change on those opinions. One would hope that the results of the poll will be used in a wise way.

          • pat

            Thank goodness you are here to tell me what I am thinking…I dont know how I coped without you.

          • Poission

            A significant measurement in the poll,was the limiting quality in climate sensitivity.

            NZ overestimated climate sensitivity by 140%,do you think this is because they are .

            1) Scientifically illiterate?

            2 They do science research by Guardian?

            3) They are eschatologicaly biased?

  4. peter sim 4

    Transport, both nationally and internationally has to be the biggest emitter of CO2.

    Internal combustion engines emit enough CO2 daily to outstrip many many volcanic eruptions.

    Manufacturing alternative energy sourced power units will require the us of existing CO2 emitting infrastructure.

    OBTW dont forget sewage ponds.

    Easy answers anybody?

    • weka 4.1

      system and supported behavioural change. We waste a lot of energy. And we can learn how to be less dependent on cars. We might have to travel less, but this might be good for people that spend a lot of time in a car getting to or from work, or driving kids everywhere. Easier to see for those of us that grew up in a time when there was less driving.

    • DB Brown 4.2

      Cap the ponds and use the gas. They are just big bio-digestors after all. They're not greatly profitable, but with the power they'll generate over time they can pay for themselves. I think country calendar featured some at some point. There's been one in Lincoln for some time.

      But that pales in comparison to India that has hundreds of thousands of small-medium scale bio-digestors so that's where you'd send a pack of clever types to learn tricks and report back instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.

      Sure you're still emitting CO2 if you burn methane from bio-digestors, but it's a lot better that methane.

      I reckon we use existing power infrastructure to build renewable power infrastructure till we all got batteries and solar and wind out the yazoo. Clearly, that won't be that simple. My thinking is, if we've got a limited amount of dirty power to do things before we reach too many tipping points – then we should make creating clean power generation our number one priority, so we then have clean power to keep making more clean power.

  5. peter sim 5

    Our manufacturing and transport systems rely very heavilyon CO2 emitting infrastructure.

    To replace the existing CO2 emitting energy sources in transport and manufacturing wil require the use of existing technology. A puppy chasing its tail.

    How are tourists going anywhere? Sailing ships, horse and cart?

  6. barry 6

    We are still building car-dependent houses that lock us into increasing emissions regardless of people's wishes to do something to lower them.

    Behaviour wont change until infrastructure does.

    • weka 6.1

      we can put in interim PT now, with housing just the way it is. I agree that we should be designing communities completely differently.

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