More Kiwis are worried about facing a warmer, wilder future – yet just a third think the Government will be able to lessen the impact climate change will have on our homes and communities.
A new poll, out today, also suggests the same minority believe the country will be able to meet the emissions reductions targets it's set for itself.
The poll of more than 1000 people, carried out by Ipsos over a week last month, was the second annual survey commissioned by insurer IAG New Zealand.
It found the number of Kiwis who felt the issue was important to them personally had now grown to 79 per cent, from 72 per cent last year.
Sixty-nine per cent said that they have become more concerned about climate change over the past few years - up from 60 per cent.
When asked about the potential effects of climate change, 86 per cent expected more frequent and extreme storms and 85 per cent expect the inundation of coastal locations due to sea-level rise.
Just over three quarters thought some people might have to move from where they live, and around the same number felt land use would need to be reconsidered.
Despite moves to bring in a landmark Zero Carbon Bill that would shape climate policy for decades to come, there appeared to be little faith in the Government's response to date.
When asked how they would rate action on climate change to date, only 41 per cent thought New Zealand's approach to climate change was on the right track.
They were divided on the Government's performance - 35 per cent good, versus 28 per cent poor – and only 33 per cent were confident New Zealand would be able to reduce its emissions to reach its current targets.
Nearly 80 per cent wanted the Government to offer guidelines to councils on what they should do, and 71 per cent thought it should amend laws to empower councils to take action.
Just over half thought funds should be provided to help protect homes and businesses from the physical impacts of climate change – around the same proportion who thought the Government should step in when insurers and banks pull back from insuring and lending to high risk locations.
"This research indicates clearly that climate change is a growing concern for Kiwis, but people are worried that we will not be able to reduce its impacts," IAG chief executive Craig Olsen said.
"For Government, business and New Zealand as a whole, that is an indication of the size of the challenge ahead."
'WE KNOW THERE'S MORE THAT NEEDS DOING'
Climate Change Minister James Shaw told the Herald he wasn't surprised more people were concerned.
"We're seeing impacts now, with the flooding that's left that huge clean-up on the Fox River, the wildfires in the Nelson Tasman earlier this year and on the Port Hills in Christchurch a couple of years ago," he said.
"There's the terribly difficult situation for residents in Matatā who are being told they might have to move, and other coastal communities who worry they face a similar fate.
"Add to that warnings from the insurance industry about the likely increasing financial risk from climate change and it's understandable that more Kiwis are concerned about climate change."
Shaw said the Government "absolutely understands" it had an important role to play, and had been working closely with local government.
"The work of a National Climate Change Risk Assessment panel, which is happening now, will be essential in that process and we intend to have a better picture next year that can help us develop a national adaptation plan," he said.
"We know there's more that needs doing and this Government's committed to doing that."
When asked more about local councils, three quarters of the respondents said they wanted them to provide more information local impacts – and two thirds wanted councils to zone land specifically.
Around 60 per cent wanted local councils to only consent developments and buildings that reduce or avoid the impact of climate change.
Local Government New Zealand vice-president Stuart Crosby said the survey backed the council lobby's calls for more Government support.
"Local government is on the frontline of the fight against climate change, and our communities recognise this, with 79 per cent of respondents saying the government should provide guidelines to councils on how to address climate change."
Asked about the business response, 41 per cent agreed that insurers should increase premiums for homes and businesses that face more risk.
About 40 per cent thought banks should lend less or for shorter periods to people and businesses that face more risk, but just 22 per cent believed insurers and banks should get those in low-risk areas to help pay for high-risk locations.
Insurance Council of New Zealand chief executive Tim Grafton, who has warned that insurers may have to claw back the cover they offer, said it was pleasing to see Kiwis understood climate impacts – and the value in businesses taking steps to reduce risk.
"There is also a growing realisation that climate change impacts are a much bigger issue and can't be solved by expecting to be able to transfer risk to insurers regardless of how high that risk becomes."
Promisingly, more than two thirds of the respondents said they were prepared to act themselves to reduce the impacts that climate change will have on them.
But only about half knew what they needed to do – and less than that felt their actions would be effective.
James Young-Drew, of youth-led climate action group Generation Zero, said that as the climate crisis continues to escalate, it was no surprise most Kiwis were increasingly concerned and willing to take action.
"The most damning finding from this poll is that only a third of New Zealanders are confident we can meet emission reduction targets and protect communities from climate impacts," he said.
"This reflects how long we've been kicking the can down the road. But it's not too late.
"We know what we need to do to avoid the worst effects of climate change, and we largely have the tools to do it. What's missing is the political courage to act urgently and co-operatively on the biggest issue of our time."
Victoria University climate scientist Professor James Renwick echoed those points.
"Most people want action from central and local government, but are less certain about what they can do personally. There is a need to help empower people to feel engaged with the issue," Renwick said.
"These results are a clear mandate for Government to ramp up action on climate change, to lead the country in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and to prepare our population for the already-unavoidable impacts.
"I hope this survey helps spur the passage of the Zero Carbon Bill, and inspires significant action from Government and the business sector."
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 Government has responded by moving to introduce a Zero Carbon Bill and set up an independent Climate Change Commission.