Kiwis overwhelmingly think New Zealand should take action on climate change even if other nations don't - and few believe humanity will do what's needed to escape the worst impacts.

That's been indicated by a new survey one leading climate scientist says is a blunt message that people want leadership on the issue.

The Ipsos poll, commissioned by the country's largest general insurer, IAG, was carried out between June 15 and 22, soon after the Government put forward the options it was considering for its proposed Zero Carbon Bill.

It found the vast majority of those polled expected to see frequent and extreme storms, more droughts, inundated coastlines from sea level rise and extinctions of plant and animal species.

Advertisement

Around three quarters agreed we'd need to rethink land use, that some people would need to move from where they currently lived, and that we'd need to support those who were worst affected.

While 84 per cent thought humanity could lessen the impact of climate change, more than half weren't sure whether we would - and just one in 10 thought mankind would take the appropriate action.

In fact, more - 14 per cent - expressed certainty that the world would fail.

Those polled thought New Zealanders needed to work together to fight climate change, with 65 per cent thinking the Government had a responsibility to take action, a quarter saying the Government was most responsible.

Yet just 43 per cent figured the country's current response was on the right track and only a third thought the Government response to date had been good.

Most believed New Zealand needed to start right now, 64 per cent believed we need to meet or exceed our international commitments, and 78 per cent say we should act even if other countries don't.

The same proportion believed our approach to climate change should be non-partisan and pragmatic, and that we needed certainty before acting.

Three quarters thought climate change was an important issue to solve and 60 per cent had become more concerned over recent years - but just 10 per cent of respondents placed climate change in their top three issues of concern.

IAG New Zealand chief executive Craig Olsen - one of 60 top Kiwi company bosses who last week committed to taking measured and meaningful action on climate change - said the poll was a timely reminder people needed to work together to combat the problem.

"This is not something that New Zealanders can assume someone else will fix, and business needs to play its part," he said.

"The enormity of the challenge in front of us as a nation was put into sharp focus by the poll findings that found that 84 per cent of New Zealanders think that we can reduce climate change but only 10 per cent think that we will.

"We want to see a clear and sustainable plan for how New Zealand reduces it emissions and adapts to the impacts of climate change."

Victoria University climate scientist Professor James Renwick noted the most important issues for those surveyed concerned issues like housing, healthcare, the cost of living and employment.

"This makes sense, as we are all concerned about our own families, about having a roof over our heads, having healthcare needs met and being able to pay the bills," he said.

"But, the day-to-day issues aside, climate change is clearly seen as important, and there seems to be a strong understanding of the impacts and the need for action."

That need was all the more pressing with some projections showing the world could blow out the Paris Agreement's aspiration of limiting future warming to within another 1.5C in just a decade - and cross the accord's ultimate goal of another 2C of warming within 20 years.

Renwick felt the overwhelming pessimism around taking the necessary action was "a telling commentary" on the decades of inaction seen since the issue came to prominence over 30 years ago.

"But, most New Zealanders understand that we need leadership from both Government and the business sector, something we are beginning to see in this country."

"It's really impressive that most people feel we need to meet or exceed our commitments to becoming carbon neutral, that we need to start now, and that we should press on regardless of what's happening in other countries.

"The results of this survey are saying that New Zealanders want leadership on climate change, and expect this country to show leadership internationally," Professor James Renwick says. Photo / File

"These figures align strongly with the Government's plan for a Zero Carbon Act and a climate change commission, and they line up with the recently-announced Climate Leaders Coalition in the business sector.

"The results of this survey are saying that New Zealanders want leadership on climate change, and expect this country to show leadership internationally."

Consultation on the Zero Carbon Bill closes Thursday. People can make submissions via the Ministry for the Environment website.