Dirty Money-A Research Report on Australian Consumer Attitudes to Global Warming and Environmental Policy

By Skamp, Keith | Australian Journal of Environmental Education, Annual 2010 | Go to article overview

Dirty Money-A Research Report on Australian Consumer Attitudes to Global Warming and Environmental Policy


Skamp, Keith, Australian Journal of Environmental Education


Dirty Money--A Research Report on Australian Consumer Attitudes to Global Warming and Environmental Policy, Commissioned by Neco Holdings, Melbourne, NECO Holdings, 2009, 25 pp. (accessed at http://www.neco.com.au/dirtymoney [August 11, 2010])

Neco is an eco superstore in Melbourne. It received feedback about caring for the environment from customers and marketing focus groups (people who had purchased or considered purchasing various Neco environmental products). This feedback prompted Neco to commission an on-line survey of opinion about various environmental concerns. This report is a summary of 1721 survey responses (77% from NSW and Victoria; 8% from Queensland), from "customers and non-customers of Neco" and stated to be a broad cross section of society (p. 4). Commentary on responses was informed by focus group input.

Brief introductory comments (3 pp.), using information and quotations from press releases, suggest direct links between, for example, dust storms in Melbourne and climate change, and that governments have been inactive or inefficient in taking action to suppress global warming. An overview of the political context in Australia in 2009 follows, making reference to blockage of the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) in the Senate and related matters. The "science" (really a set of predictions) of climate change is "listed" together with passing reference to conflicting arguments from sceptics. An executive summary (2 pp.) presents a "ten point consumer charter" based on survey and focus group responses; graphs and commentary on the survey items (15 pp.) complete the report.

Findings from this project add little to what is readily available about adult views on this topic (see below). Responses to Likert style items, albeit with focus group input, are used to over-generalise conclusions: for example because 98 percent agreed with the statement "Regardless of the cause of global warming, it is unacceptable to continue to pollute the world" it was suggested that consumers had "a uniform grasp of the challenge" (p. 8). The innuendo was that the "challenge" was primarily climate change, although the term "pollution" was often used; six of the ten-point charter referred to global warming (GW) issues.

Responses indicated about 90% agreed that GW is a major threat, caused by humankind, and were concerned about the future of the environment and their children's future. Similar numbers thought the media focussed on "environmental politics not the environment", "all governments complicate the real issues based on their political agenda" and "are more concerned about big business than the environment" and are not doing enough "to create new jobs in sustainable industries". Political commentary accompanied these findings (e.g., the media not referring to the environmental benefits of insulation; the replacement of political leaders over the ETS). Interestingly two thirds of respondents thought activists were ineffective as they were too extreme.

Some items focussed on carbon trading. A majority considered this process would not be beneficial for a sustainable future and were not "happy" for their carbon credits to be "acquired by carbon producers as offsets"; a third did not understand how carbon credits worked. Focus groups voiced anger at the concept of a "carbon currency" and how it would operate (e.g., leverage of "carbon benefits"), and this lead to the report's title "Dirty Money". Reference was made to only a fifth supporting "the Solar Multiplier"--more detail was required to appreciate this item.

This report concluded that consumers were "committed to personal change" and wanted to take their own actions (as others, e.g., governments, media were not), mainly to create a better world for their children, for whom parents (90% of sample) were willing to make sacrifices. …

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