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Two in Five Australians Want Nuclear Power Laws Revoked To Fight Climate Change

Australians have lowest satisfaction with government action on climate change of five countries surveyed.

27 May 2020 – More Australians favour than oppose nuclear power to fight climate change, new research reveals. 

Climate Catalyst, a study from research platform Glow, reveals the views of 5,256 citizens across Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US and the UK as to their level of trust and satisfaction with governmental response to climate change, preferred policies for adoption, and how well their elected officials are delivering on expectations.

It found 38% of Australians are for nuclear power compared to 31% who are against it as an alternative to carbon – the only country surveyed to favour against current legislation. It follows the release of the Australian Federal Government’s Technology Investment Roadmap’ which states emerging nuclear technologies like small modular reactors have “potential” but that “social acceptability” was a “key determinant of any future deployment”, alongside engineering, cost and environmental challenges. 

The report found that most (75%) of citizens across Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK and Canada want their governments to do more to combat the threat of climate change. 

Glow CEO and Founder Tim Clover said the findings are intended as the start of a conversation about how countries can best build a post-COVID-19 world.

“Our philosophy is to use data to remove the barriers between leaders’ actions and citizen’s sentiment so that ultimately we can be a catalyst for change,” said Clover, adding that the findings offer suggestions for action in every country surveyed.

“We are committed to getting the voice of the people into the hands of those who hold the power, and grow communities that will shape the future.”

Clover added, “A new People’s Catalyst Facebook Group has been established to encourage people to get involved – we’ll be asking our followers and advisors how this research should develop.”

Nuclear Risk Balanced With Climate Consequences

A large portion of citizens surveyed in all countries, bar nuclear-free New Zealand, are in support of nuclear power as an alternative to carbon.

In the US, currently home to 98 operating nuclear power plants, 46% are for, 25% are against nuclear power. In Canada and the UK where nuclear power is legal, it is respectively 47% for, 21% against, and 44% for, 22% against. 

Another Win for Jacinda Arden

Mirroring public praise for actions taken to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the New Zealand government leads the pack with both the most trusting (Net Trust Score = 15) and most satisfied (56%) citizens. 

This is compared to Canada with 48% satisfied, followed by the UK and the US both at 41%, while Australia trails behind at 38%.

Trudeau’s Trust Tumbles, but is no Trump

The Net Trust Score, a metric developed by Glow to determine relative trust, followed a similar pattern. Previously known for his popularity among the people, last year’s fall from grace for Canada PM, Justin Trudeau, placed the country as the median for trust with a score of 1. 

This places Canada behind trust leader New Zealand (15), but not as worrying as Trump’s United States reign (-15). Australia and the UK sit in between at -7 and -8 respectively.  

1 in 3 Keen to Cut Coal and Mandate Methane, 1 in 5 Want to Put a Stop to Petrol 

As for policy, data aggregated across countries found that while most citizens favour soft measures, such as education (53%), research (53%) and planting trees (56%), there is support for immediate implementation on historically ‘tough’ measures. 

A third of all people support the banning of coal for electricity (35%), coal exports (31%) and introducing laws to mandate the use of low methane variants in livestock feed (32%). Of those in support, half want these actions to come into effect immediately. 

Banning the sale of new diesel and petrol cars, arguably the closest to home impact for citizens, was the least favoured measure, yet still supported by 1 in 5 people. More than two thirds of this group say it should happen between now and the next five years.

Overwhelming Optimism That We Can Overcome 

On an uplifting note, optimism for the future remains across all five nations with the majority of each believing humanity can overcome the challenges posed by climate change.

The UK is the least hopeful with only 48% optimistic in our ability to overcome challenges, versus who are 26% pessimistic.

Climate Catalyst is the first in a series of Catalyst studies planned by Glow.