Climate worries glass half empty Aussies

Research reveals Australians' happiness at its lowest since 2014 with the environment a major worry.
Research reveals Australians' happiness at its lowest since 2014 with the environment a major worry.

About half of Australians believe life is getting worse, with the environment eclipsing other worries for the first time, according to a new survey.

The Pollinate survey, run in the last week of September as major cities emerged from prolonged COVID lockdowns, asked 1000 people aged 14-65 about how they felt.

It found Australians' happiness is at its lowest point since 2014, with only about a quarter of the respondents believing life is getting better.

People's biggest worry is COVID-19, followed by climate change and the cost of living.

But when asked to compare social, environmental and economic worries, the environment topped the list for the first time, with 68 per cent concerned or very concerned, eclipsing social worries (66 per cent) and anxieties about the economy (63 per cent).

About a third of respondents said they would be prepared to pay higher prices and taxes to protect the environment, while nearly four in 10 said they would accept cuts to their standard of living.

Fifty seven per cent of participants classified climate change as a serious issue that must be addressed right now.

A similar majority felt the responsibility for tackling the problem lay primarily with the federal government, followed by the states at just over 10 per cent and the private sector at nine per cent.

More than half the respondents said Australia was not doing enough compared to other countries.

The results, obtained before the COP26 summit in Glasgow, indicate another federal election will be fought around climate change, according to Pollinate CEO Howard Parry-Husbands.

But he says the electorate is facing a confluence of pressing worries that demand a more complex political approach.

"I really hope we see the end of Australia as a slogan bogan political system because it's just irritating, it's so much more complicated than a three-word sound bite," he said at the survey launch last week.

He also noted the survey showed people were experiencing high levels of psychological distress, particularly young people, of whom 79 per cent said they were stressed or highly stressed.

"We're not seeing a collective sigh of relief here, we're seeing a collective concern," he said.

Australian Associated Press