More Kiwis want action on climate change than at any time in the past decade - but large numbers still don't see a need to deal with it now, or even at all.

Horizon Research's latest poll was carried out after New Zealand's hottest summer in recorded history - and some of its findings have concerned a prominent climate scientist who says the world is running out of time to act.

Of 1164 adults surveyed nationwide last month, 64 per cent believed climate change was a problem, and 29 per cent of those thought it was an urgent problem.

But 30 per cent thought it was problem for later or not one at all; a result that suggested more than two million Kiwis were concerned about climate change, but 960,000 weren't so worried.


The level of concern was 12 per cent below its peak of 76 per cent a decade ago, but up 12 per cent since 2012 and up 10 per cent since the last Horizon tracking poll was conducted in 2014.

The survey found notable differences between age groups.

Half of people aged 18 to 24 saw climate change as an urgent problem, but more than half of those older than 75 saw it as a problem for later or not one at all.

Concern over climate change was highest among those aged 35-44 (75 per cent) and 25-34 (71 per cent).

By occupation, labourers and agricultural and domestic workers were the most concerned - 77 per cent, with 35 per cent thinking it urgent - and the next most concerned group were students (72 per cent) and senior government officials and professionals (72 per cent).

Sixty-three per cent of business managers and executives were concerned, along with 66 per cent of business proprietors and self-employed.

Source / Horizon Research
Source / Horizon Research

There was an indication that the least concerned were those working in a sector with the highest greenhouse gas emissions, farm owners and managers, of whom 57 per cent said it was a problem for the future.

But the concern crossed the political divide, with all the main parties' voters concerned about climate change.

Source / Horizon Research
Source / Horizon Research

A majority of voters for each of all the main parties in Parliament were concerned about climate change.

Fifty-four per cent of those who gave National their party vote at the 2017 general election, 74 per cent of Labour, 96 per cent of Green and 54 per cent of New Zealand First voters think climate change was a problem for now or urgent.

But just 16 per cent of ACT voters thought the same way.

The poll had a 95 per cent confidence level with a 2.9 per cent margin of error.

Source / Horizon Research
Source / Horizon Research

Previous surveys have suggested increasing numbers of Kiwis believe climate change is a real threat and that man-made emissions are responsible for it.

But those polls had still pointed to alarming numbers of Kiwis who refused to accept that.


One Motu Economic and Public Policy Research poll in 2015 found only half of those polled agreed they were certain that climate change was happening, 24 per cent were undecided and 28 per cent disagreed.

Victoria University climate scientist Professor James Renwick said he was surprised by the latest poll's finding that just half of New Zealand's youngest adults thought it was an urgent problem, given the campaigning that had come from youth groups such as Generation Zero.

"Instead it seems it's more people in their 30s who are the most concerned."

Renwick said if the world was serious about trying to keep future temperature rise to below another 1.5C - an aspiration of the Paris Agreement - then big emissions reductions would need to be made within the next 10 years.

"I'm not talking about bringing emissions to zero, but reducing them by several per cent in the next decade.

"In that sense, we really do have to do something and the pressure is on.


"Further large gains would need to be made in the decade beyond that to keep future warming within another 2C: the Paris Agreement's threshold goal.

"There's nothing particularly magical about the 2C number, but the more warming we get, the harder it's going to be to change, and the more sea level rise we get, and everything else: it's just going to make it more difficult to cope with."

New Zealand and climate change

• Under present projections, the sea level around New Zealand is expected to rise between 30cm and 100cm this century. Temperatures could also increase by several degrees by 2100. Climate change would bring more floods; worsen freshwater problems and put more pressure on rivers and lakes; acidify our oceans; put even more species at risk and bring problems from the rest of the world. Climate change is also expected to result in more large storms compounding the effects of sea-level rise.

• The latest greenhouse gas emissions inventory, which gives a picture of how much human-generated greenhouse gas is being emitted into and removed from our atmosphere, shows emissions as at 2016 have increased from 1990 levels by 19.6 per cent. New Zealand has pledged to slash emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels, and 11 per cent below 1990 levels, by 2030.

• The new coalition Government has promised greater action, with a proposed new Climate Commission and Zero Carbon Act and goals for a carbon-neutral economy by 2050 and 100 per cent renewable energy by 2035.