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Abstract

This study investigates Australian federal politicians’ expertise in and attitudes towards climate change. Telephone interviews were conducted with a sample of 26 Members of Parliament (MPs). Results of the survey, undertaken in late 2009, suggest that climate change expertise is low to moderate among MPs, and that there is no correlation between expertise in and concern about climate change. The survey reveals important differences in attitudes to climate change by party. About 40 per cent of Coalition (Liberal and National) MPs are climate change ‘deniers’, but no Labor Party (ALP) MPs are. ALP MPs rate climate change as the most important (with water management) out of four long-term challenges, but Coalition MPs rate it as the least important (after not only water, but also aging and defence). All ALP MPs think climate change demands urgent action, and that Australia should play a leadership role globally, but only about one-fifth of Coalition MPs does. Even those Coalition MPs who are climate change ‘believers’ tend to give lower importance to climate change than ALP MPs.

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