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  • Writer's pictureGregory Andrews

Debunking 'division' on climate change

In Australia, the discourse on climate change can seem divisive. That's because the fossil fuel industry wants it that way. It knows its days are numbered. So backed by dodgy politicians, it creates a narrative to undermine the need for immediate and decisive climate action. Its strategy is to divide us by creating a false dichotomy between the freedoms and prosperity we enjoy today and the longterm interests we all share in a safe climate.

In fact, we're not divided like fossil fuel lobbyists and dodgy politicians would like us to be. Data shows there is strong consensus on the urgency and need for climate action. Climate advocates are the majority, not fringe or 'special interest' groups as we're often portrayed. Most individuals are willing to contribute to combating climate change and they expect governments and politicians to do likewise.

In their recent paper Globally representative evidence on the actual and perceived support for climate action, scientists from two leading universities in Germany debunk the divisive narrative on climate change. Their study of 130,000 people across 125 countries shows widespread support for climate action. In fact, 69% of the global population expresses a willingness to contribute personal income to fight global warming. 86% endorse pro-climate social norms, and 89% demand intensified political action.

This is good news. It shows the world is united in its recognition of the need for strong and urgent climate action. But on the flip side, the study found there's a perception gap. This gap, described as a state of 'pluralistic ignorance', refers to systematic underestimation of others' willingness to act. In other words, individuals think other people support climate action less than they do.

In Australia, where the fossil fuel industry and divisive politicians exert significant influence, this perception gap is particularly concerning. By promoting Not In My Backyard campaigns and perpetuating the narrative that climate action is unpopular, unnecessary and divisive, they seek to keep polluting and delay meaningful change. Their strategy aims to divide Australians. Just think about statements from climate denialist politicians about EVs ruining the weekend, tradies not being allowed to have utes, carbon pricing wiping Whyalla off the map, roast dinners becoming unaffordable, and renewable energy creating toxic waste, killing whales and driving up power bills. These are all lies aimed at fuelling pluralistic ignorance and division.

Having just passed the 1.5°C threshold, the climate is entering a dangerous stage. Every emissions reduction will count. Raising awareness about the true extent of global support for climate action is thus critically important. That's why we must consistently challenge false narratives propagated by desperate and dodgy politicians. We must keep highlighting the overwhelming consensus on the benefits of urgent climate action. We must put pressure on our governments to do more. And we must build dialogue and collaboration across society.

Climate change already affects all of us; from rich to poor, from city to the bush. For the sake of our kids and country, we must be awake to trickery, transcend division and focus on our common interests in safeguarding Australia's prosperity and security.

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