Understanding the community’s views of climate change

Understanding the community’s views of climate change

Dan Evans 06 Feb, 2024

Understanding and mitigating the effects of climate change is fast becoming a central feature in policy across all levels of government. While stand-alone adaptation strategies exist, the nature of climate change – and its expression across Australia’s local areas – determines that its impact must also form a key consideration in other core government policies; be it ‘migration’ at the federal level, where to direct ‘transport and social infrastructure investment’ at the state level or ‘strategic land use planning’ at the local level.

The recently published Intergenerational Report Australia’s Future to 2063 dedicates one of its five chapters to the Nation’s climate challenge. It does a good job communicating how profound an impact climate change could have on our way of life; speaking to its potential to disrupt where we live and work, agriculture and water use, interstate and overseas migration patterns, how we get around, food security, and of course our precious relationship with the natural environment. It also speaks to adaptation and mitigation, including how a commitment to reaching net zero within decades will deliver place based economic opportunities for communities to participate in the clean energy transition, and how this structural shift can create tailwinds for Australia to leverage its natural strengths in resources, while putting downward pressure on the long-term cost for energy – benefiting industry, households, essential services and community groups.

The diversity of Australia’s local areas – informed by factors like topographic variation, demographic composition, population density, and our connection with the nature – determines that climate change will impact communities in a variety of ways, requiring different mitigation approaches. Further, and for the same reasons, some local areas are better placed than others to participate in the clean energy transition at scale.

The optimal mix of strategies and tactics required to adapt to climate change will also be informed by the needs and wants of individual communities. For example, people living in built-up areas of South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales will probably have different views as to how and the extent to which climate change is impacting them and their local areas in comparison to residents of Melbourne’s middle suburbs and Southern Tasmania. And the residents of Far North Queensland will most likely have different views on how to mitigate climate change where their live in comparison to those who make their home in Western Sydney.

At .id, we believe that local government has a critical role to play in helping Australian communities adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change. Councils – given their close connection to and deep understanding of their communities – are in a uniquely valuable position to help residents, industry and other levels of government navigate the challenges posed by climate change, build resilient communities and promote economic opportunities. To do this effectively, local governments need a mechanism to understand their community’s views on climate change to help inform, monitor and evaluate the diverse portfolio of direct and indirect climate related policy and advocacy.

To help, in late 2023 we created a Climate Change questionnaire module as an extension to our Living in Place community survey. The module seeks to provide understanding on community views of climate change and its impacts. The Climate Change questions cover five aspects of the community views:

  • Belief: the existing of climate change.
  • Attribution: what contributes to climate change.
  • Vulnerability: how climate change is currently impacting them and their quality of life.
  • Adaptability: confidence they will be able to adapt to the effects of climate change.
  • Mitigation: best ways to respond to the effects of climate change where they live.

The data collected will give local government valuable insights into how their community feels about climate change, its impacts and the best actions to mitigate the effects, providing decision makers with a foundation from which they can build upon and align policy, advocacy and action with their community. We believe that when residents can see their specific priorities and concerns reflected in policy, they will feel they are being listened to and have agency in managing the impact of climate change. We believe this alignment will lead to better policy, action, community change and wellbeing that will – as an extension – deliver better outcomes over the longer term for all.

Further reading…
  • For more information about these climate change questions click HERE, and more information about how our Community Views team helps Councils to inform, monitor and evaluate their strategic planning and advocacy click HERE. Visit the Community Views online platform HERE.
  • This CASE STUDY explains how we helped a community based organization use demographics to inform their response to devastating floods.
  • This ARTICLE discusses some of the barriers that stand in the way of us building adaptable cities.
Dan Evans

Dan is a social researcher with more than 10 years’ experience investigating community attitudes to and experiences of planning and development, transport infrastructure, public health and a bunch of other things. Dan joined .id in April 2020 to design and deliver Living in Place – an independent, robust and repeatable community survey that seeks to understand and advance the liveability of Australians’ local areas.

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