A telephone survey of 500 people found New Zealanders generally support an international treaty on climate change even if it would cost them money.

The poll was paid for by the Greenhouse Policy Coalition, which represents major emitters, and carried out by UMR research between November 23 and November 27 - the week after damaging emails from an international group of climate scientists were taken from the University of East Anglia's climate research unit and leaked on to the internet.

The poll results were analysed by market researcher Duncan Stuart, who found that most people, about eight out of 10, agreed that climate change was happening and was a problem, although many were unsure whether it was caused by people.

About 17 per cent agreed with the statement that the world's climate was having the same ups and downs it had always had and that there was no evidence of a problem, while 44 per cent agreed there was clear proof warming was caused by human activities.

The survey, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 per cent, found support for cutting greenhouse gases fell away once the costs per person reached about $500 a year.

But it also found that changing the question slightly could lead people to give answers that were seemingly contradictory.

For example, 58 per cent of respondents disagreed with cutting carbon emissions if it meant reducing living standards.

But at the same time 62 per cent did not like the idea of maintaining living standards if it meant failing to meet emissions targets.

The study concluded that the proportion of New Zealanders who would be willing to bear the costs of fighting climate change depended partly on how the issue was framed.

Most respondents did not think they had a good understanding of the Emissions Trading Scheme.