Australians massively overestimate role of oil and gas in economy

Australians overestimate the number of jobs created by the gas industry by 40 times and 80 per cent believe climate change impacts are already being experienced.
New research to be launched by NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean today demonstrates that the gas industry has an outsized influence in the national political debate and that climate change concerns are pertinent despite the COVID-19 pandemic, says the Australia Institute’s climate and energy program director Richie Merzian.
Excluding those who say they do not know, respondents on average believe gas mining and exploration makes up 8.2 per cent of the total workforce. In reality, gas mining and exploration employs less than 28,600 workers, making up less than 0.2 per cent of the 12.5 million people employed in Australia, says the report.

On average, Australians believe the petroleum resources rent tax, which is the main way the federal government collects revenue from oil and gas companies selling state-owned resources, contributed 10.8 per cent to the Commonwealth budget for the 2018-19 year (excluding those who do not know). In reality, the tax contributed 0.2 per cent to the budget, $1.15 billion of the total $485 billion, it finds. »Because of this [misconception] oil and gas companies command far more political influence,» Mr Merzian said.

Similarly the research found on average respondents guessed that coal mining›s share of gross domestic product to be 12.4 per cent rather than the true figure of 2.3 per cent. The annual Climate of the Nation survey, commissioned by the Australia Institute think tank, shows four in five respondents agreed climate change is occurring, the highest result since 2012, the national survey of 1998 people found. Three-quarters are concerned about climate change, the same level as in 2019.

Among people aged 18 to 34 that concern is up from 83 per cent last year to 88 per cent. For those aged 65 or older the figure was 67 per cent.

In the past five years, the number of Australians who think we are already experiencing the impacts of climate change a lot (compared to a little, or not very much) has increased from 33 per cent in 2016 to 48 per cent in 2020.

The survey found 59 per cent of respondents wanted to see a renewable energy economic recovery compared to 12 per cent who supported a gas-fired recovery as advocated by the government.
Earlier this year a Lowy Institute poll found signs that concern about climate change may have been overshadowed by the pandemic, with 56 per cent of Australians agreeing with the statement, «Global warming is a serious and pressing problem. We should begin taking steps now even if this involves significant costs.»

This was five points lower than in 2019, and 12 points below the peak of concern in 2006 when 68 per cent expressed this view.

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