Ten per cent of New Zealanders believe it is too late to do anything about climate change, a new survey reveals.
The figure has alarmed campaigners trying to spread the message that everyone can do their bit for the environment.
Paul McElwain, strategy director of advertising company Publicis Mojo, presented the results of the online survey to a conference in Auckland yesterday.
The poll of more than 4000 household shoppers showed hundreds thought it was too late to act on climate change. One in 10 New Zealanders and about two in 10 Australians thought time had run out.
Mr McElwain said it was a thin line between people thinking it was too late and not taking action. As a result of doom messages, they might think, "Why bother?"
"There is the alarming prospect of losing these people, which is something we need to be concerned about."
The survey showed nine in 10 people believed immediate action was required. "It is time to move on from problems to solutions because consumers are crying out for that."
There was also a need for clarity and consistency of the message and for decisive leadership from business and Government.
The survey showed twice as many Australians than New Zealanders thought Governments needed to force the change.
"Most people thought they had a personal obligation to engage," Mr McElwain said. "Many are looking for leadership."
Few people did not believe there was a problem or that "going green" was not worth it or that what they did would not make a difference.
The survey showed Australians felt more knowledgeable on environmental issues than New Zealanders. About half the Australians felt educated and informed on environmental issues compared to about a third of the New Zealanders.
Half of the New Zealanders found it hard to make sense of the different environmental issues, compared to just over a third of the Australians.
Sixty per cent of New Zealanders did not consider themselves well read or informed compared to 45 per cent of the Australians.
Mr McElwain said nearly half those surveyed were willing to pay more for products and services to protect the environment, but the biggest barrier to purchasing was price.
Just over a third of the New Zealanders and nearly half the Australians selected environmentally responsible products.
Similar proportions trusted companies to tell the truth in environmental messaging.
Tim Rainger, team leader of public relations company Creo Sustain, said 80 per cent of people wanted companies to tell them what they were doing but nearly half did not believe what they were told.
Mr Rainger said there was emotional intensity around environmental issues and many lies had been told over the years.
Issues relating to sustainability were often complex and confused people wanted reassurance. One in two New Zealanders confused carbon-neutral with carbon-friendly, he said.
Claims by climate change sceptics needed more scrutiny. There was a need to be "brutally blunt" about the naysayers whose claims were not peer-adjudicated, he said.
Professor Ann Smith, of Landcare Research's CarboNZero programme, said anybody could claim to be carbon-neutral and no one knew what it meant. Those claiming to be carbon-neutral should be challenged but if they were under a certified scheme it could be taken as a fact.
Cheryl Bower, principal consultant at Energetics, said emission measurements were critical. Vastly different results could be produced depending on the standards used.