Poll: World Wildlife Fund, Australian attitudes to nature, mid 2017 (released mid 2018)

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Statement (24 May 2018)

A new report has found Australians’ concern about the state of Australia’s environment is rising, with four out of five Australians saying that we should ‘act now’ on environmental problems.

The Backyard Barometer is the first report to track the nation’s attitudes towards the environment over a 20-year period, combined with a new Roy Morgan survey of 1,800 Australians. It shows Australians have a strong affinity with our forests, beaches, oceans and wildlife, and overwhelmingly support more action to protect Australia’s natural habitats.

“WWF is committed to building our understanding of how Australians relate to the natural world. It has been encouraging to see such a strong sense of ownership among Australians when it comes to their ‘big backyard’ with issues such as the Great Barrier Reef, climate change, plastic pollution and tree clearing already front of mind,” said Dermot O’Gorman, Chief Executive Officer, WWF Australia.

The Great Barrier Reef is the top environmental issue

Protecting the Great Barrier Reef is the top environmental issue for Australians, with 94 per cent saying its protection is “important”. However, 84 per cent say the overall state of the Great Barrier Reef is “declining” or “getting worse” compared to 10 years ago. Almost half of Australians (44 per cent) say the Reef is in terminal decline, with coral bleaching and climate change seen as the top two threats.

Wildlife and Trees prominent

Protecting Australia’s endangered animals, forests and trees ranked second in terms of environmental issues, with 93 per cent of Australians saying their protection is important.

When it comes to the species Australians most want to see protected, koalas top the list, followed by whales and bilbies.

Backyard Barometer confirms that spending time in the ‘great outdoors’ is part of the Australian way of life. In the past two years, three in four Australians have visited a national park or nature reserve. But there are concerns about the future, with 82 per cent saying that they worried younger Australians will grow up with less access to nature and wildlife.

According to the report, 89 per cent of respondents agreed that there should be investment in restoring wildlife habitats and natural places that have become degraded. For example, 81 per cent agreed that there is a need to grow more trees than we cut down.

Australians are taking action

The Backyard Barometer found recycling and composting is now commonplace, with 86 per cent of Australians saying they are regularly recycling/composting as much household waste as possible to help the environment.

“Australians aren’t just thinking about the environment, they are taking matters into their own hands by recycling and composting. Looking ahead, switching to renewable energy and installing solar are the top two environmental actions Australians are likely to take in the near future,” Mr O’Gorman said.

Meanwhile, 53 per cent of Australians say they have already switched to environmentally friendly products.

“Setting a benchmark for national data in regards to environmental perceptions, this report will lay the foundations for measuring the changing attitudes of Australians towards their natural environment for many years to come,” said Michele Levine, CEO, Roy Morgan.

Share photos and stories of what you’re proud of in your own backyard using the #mybackyard hashtag.


Over the long term, Australians are less or equally concerned about the environment than they were in the year 2000. The last five years however, have clearly seen growing concerns around environmental issues.

As on March 2017, 80% of Australians 14+ agree that if we don’t act now, we’ll never control our environmental problems (88% in Mar’03, 76% in Mar’13) 63% of Australians now agree that at heart they are an environmentalist at heart (compared to 55% in Mar’00 and 57% in Mar’13) Only one quarter of all Australians think that threats to the environment are exaggerated (20% in Mar’00, 34% in Mar’13)

Findings from the latest customized research conducted among Australians 18 years and above show that generally Australians are concerned about the pertinent environmental issues and their impact.

Women in general are more concerned about environmental issues and their associated impacts

Encouragingly, a high proportion of Australians (68%) believe that a healthy environment and a prosperous economy go hand in hand, and 20% believe that the environment needs to be protected even if it impacts economic prosperity.

Oceans and water are an integral part of the Aussie way of life. For Australians, protecting the oceans and marine life in general, and specifically the Great Barrier Reef is the most important environmental issue.

  • Nine out of ten agree that there is a need to do more to protect the suffering oceans and marine life
  • Very few (5%) hold the view that oceans are so large that it is unlikely for humans to cause lasting damage to them
  • A majority (65%) believes that the state of Australia’s oceans, waterways and coastal waters is still good, though declining – pointing to the need for timely action.
  • 16% believe that the state of Australia’s oceans and coastal waters is bad and getting worse
  • Plastic and chemical pollution followed by warming are seen as biggest threats to the oceans and coastal waters

There is a high degree of concern around the state of the Great Barrier Reef among Australians:

  • Protecting the Great Barrier Reef is the most important environmental issue for Australians (94% finding it important)
  • 89% of Australians think that the Great Barrier Reef is the most important natural place to be protected
  • 42% think that compared to 10 years ago the overall state of the GBR is bad and getting worse
  • 44% of the Australians agree that the Great Barrier Reef is in terminal decline
  • 33% disagree that it can recover from coral bleaching Coral bleaching followed by climate change are considered to be the two greatest threats to the Great Barrier Reef
  • The next important environmental issues are reducing pollution, protecting Australia’s endangered animals, its forests and trees.

67% of Australians think that the state of Australia’s natural environment and wildlife is good but declining 15% think that the natural environment and wildlife are already in a bad state and getting worse 89% agree that there should be investment in restoring wildlife habitats and natural places that have become degraded 81% agree that there is a need to be growing more trees (which is not happening right now) and that they are worried about future generations growing up with lesser access to nature and wildlife than them Introduced animals and weeds along with urban expansion are seen to be the biggest threats to natural environment and wildlife Most Australians prefer introduction of stronger land clearing laws for protecting the wildlife and nature and will support action by their state government to stop excessive land and clearing

The reason most Australians believe it is important to protect oceans, wildlife and nature is because these are critical to maintain the balance of nature and also there is a high consciousness that it is the responsibility of the current generation to leave these healthy for the future generations.

Looking after farmland sustainably is also an important environmental concern for Australians.

Almost two thirds of the population is aware of one or more the food certifications 83% agree that the food that they eat should come from sustainable sources 68% agree that locally grown food is better for the environment than imported food 60% are willing to pay more for sustainable food Australians see climate change, water pollution and food wastage to be the biggest threats to food sustainability

Even though as many as 86% think that climate change is happening and many think that human activity is the cause, climate change is considered much less of a concern compared to other environmental issues.

Australians are concerned about the impact of climate change with destruction of the Great Barrier Reef being their top most concern Other concerns are the impact on food supply with the droughts or floods and animal and plant species becoming extinct 71% of the population agree that Australia should be the world leader in climate change solutions and 69% would want Australia to act on climate change without waiting for the major emitters There is high agreement on the risk to the planet from that coal and gas pollution and a majority agree that the federal government should not allow new coal mines Over 50% are in agreement with the introduction of a carbon price



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Updated: 12 September 2018