PEOPLE feel starved of solid information about climate change and are unsure about what practical measures are being taken to deal with it, data gathered over the past year by the federal government's Climate Commission shows.
''There is a lot of confusion out there about the science of climate change, about the carbon price and other policies, but generally people have been very keen to find out more and find out what they … can do,'' said its chief commissioner, Tim Flannery.
The commission has held 15 public forums in 17 cities and towns, covering each state and territory, and most were attended by more than 200 people who afterwards completed surveys about the value of the information. Its first annual report will be released today.
Professor Flannery and his fellow commissioners have been heckled, hissed at and, on one occasion, accused of genocide, but the overwhelming majority of people who filled out qualitative surveys said the forums were valuable.
Of the 1423 people who took part, 92 per cent said the presentations were ''very good'' or ''good'', while only eight of the people who filled out surveys described the forums as ''poor''.
The self-selected participants should not be taken as a representative sample of the population as a whole but the results suggested a grassroots desire for better information, Professor Flannery said.
Polls consistently show most of the population is concerned about climate change but that people are divided on what to do about it.
''Most Australians we met were concerned about climate change and thought that Australia should take action to reduce our carbon emissions,'' the report found.
''While we also met some who do not agree that climate change is caused by human activity, the majority of the people appreciated that carbon pollution is the primary cause … Overall, the commission has found that Australians are hungry for information on climate change.''
The most common question asked by the public was ''What can I do?'', according to a review of the video recordings of each session.
The lowest level of public satisfaction was recorded after a forum in Sydney last year, when members of a right-wing group attempted to hijack a presentation with claims of genocide, but the majority of respondents still endorsed the commission's presentations.
The agency was set up by the government a year ago to provide ''plain English'' advice to the public about global warming from scientists and business leaders. It looks at science and the impacts of climate change on different regions of Australia, but does not comment on partisan issues such as whether Australia should have a carbon price.
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