Kiwis among world’s most sceptical of global warming claims.
New Zealand has one of the highest rates of climate change scepticism in the developed world, a study has revealed. Surprisingly, we have more sceptics per capita than in the US, where large numbers of right-wing media and politicians refuse to accept climate change is man-made.
A new paper from the University of Tasmania, called Scepticism in a changing climate: a cross-national study, found 13 per cent of New Zealanders were climate change sceptics.
It was third only to Norway (15 per cent) and Australia (17 per cent). The United States came in at 12 per cent.
The study, which was published in the journal, Global Environmental Change, was based on surveys taken in each of the 14 countries and was designed to be representative of adults aged over 18.
It found countries with higher levels of CO2 emissions corresponded with nations with higher rates of climate change scepticism.
According to data compiled by the US Department of Energy, New Zealand was ranked 50 out of 214 nations for CO2 emissions per capita, with each Kiwi creating about 7.8 tonnes each year.
Scepticism also increased a country's vulnerability to the effects of climate change, the study said.
It found that men, political conservatives and people with low environmental concern were most likely to be sceptics.
Contrary to the authors' expectations, education level and age were not found to be relevant predictors of scepticism.
The study supported earlier Canadian research that found that "those who value the free market system over environmental quality tend to believe that global climate change is not occurring, that the causes of global climate change are more natural than human caused and that its consequences will not be negative".
Despite overwhelming scientific evidence that climate change was real, scepticism may even be on the rise, the authors of the University of Tasmania study said.
One outspoken Kiwi climate change sceptic, Herald on Sunday columnist and former Act Party leader Rodney Hide, said the results showed that New Zealand was "saner than most of the world".
"[The results] suggests to me that New Zealanders are more resistant to propaganda than I would have otherwise believed."
He was concerned about the environment, saying "that's the essence of being a Kiwi, but I'm also concerned about the economy and I've never understood why we should bomb the economy back to cavemen times because of some computer model."
Green Party co-leader James Shaw said some people didn't want to believe in climate change because of the effects they thought doing so would have on their lifestyle.
"That's the cognitive bias we've got which is to say, 'Well if I was to admit this thing was true I might need to give up driving my SUV'."
To increase climate change awareness the Greens wanted to highlight the opportunities that moving to a low-carbon future would create.
"There's a hard core that will just absolutely refuse to believe the science for whatever reason. But then there's a group of people who are sceptical but persuadable," he said.
The study's release comes in a week when four Greenpeace protesters were arrested after scaling Parliament's roof and holing up for 10 hours to protest what they claimed was the Government's lack of action on climate change.
It also coincides with one of the coldest weeks in New Zealand's history, with parts of the South Island reaching a bone-chilling -20°C.
• Read also: Editorial: NZ should be doing its bit for the climate