Monster hunt: using environmental DNA to survey life in Loch Ness


File 20180624 26576 1k61oxw.png?ixlib=rb 1.1
With the help of environmental DNA, scientists are compiling a census of life in Loch Ness, which should establish if there is any scientific basis to the centuries-old legend of the Loch Ness monster.
Supplied, CC BY-SA

Neil Gemmell

Reported sightings of the Loch Ness monster go back to the Dark Ages, but now our Super Natural History team is using the 21st-century technology of environmental DNA to survey all life in the famous Scottish lake.

The premise of environmental DNA (eDNA) is simple. Life is messy, and living things leave behind skin, hair, feathers, poo, bark, pollen and spores as part of their day-to-day activities.

These traces result in a potpourri of organic material in our soil and water from which DNA can be extracted and sequenced. Our aim is to produce a census of life in Loch Ness and to establish if there is any scientific basis for the centuries-old monster legend.




Read more:
Why won’t scientific evidence change the minds of Loch Ness monster true believers?


Sampling a legend

There have been more than 1,000 registered sightings of the Loch Ness “monster”, including two in the last month. They have sparked various theories. Some say the loch is home to a prehistoric relic, while others believe it’s a giant sturgeon, catfish, or just a log or a boat wake.

Obviously, the hook here is that if Nessie is present in the deep, dark and mysterious waters of Loch Ness (for the record I am not a believer, but open to being wrong) then we might find DNA sequences that will help us figure out its biological basis.

We have now finished two weeks of field work for this project, having collected 259 water samples from various parts of the loch, including its chilly depths, more than 200 metres down.

The team took water samples from several sites on the lake, as well as from deep waters.
Kieran Hennigan, CC BY-SA

Miraculously, for the Highlands, the wind stayed light and the rain stayed away which meant we were able to send teams out to sample right around Loch Ness by car and small boat, as well as several nearby lochs as controls. We have also used the Loch Ness Centre boat to sample up and down Loch Ness, particularly targeting the loch’s depths.

Decoding life

Our days were long, frequently starting as early as 6am and finishing as late as midnight. Our project was also hard on equipment – we broke two of our three sampling devices deploying to depth. Now, with sample collection behind us, we are onto the next phase of work.

The DNA is currently being extracted from our filtered water samples at the University of Hull. From there it will go to French and Swiss laboratories to be metabarcoded and sequenced.

What will we find? Well undoubtedly there will be DNA sequences derived from bacteria, protists, algae, invertebrates, and the traces of fish, birds and other vertebrate life known from the loch.

What we’ll get is a comprehensive survey of the biodiversity of Loch Ness, but whether we’ll find anything unusual, such as a giant catfish, sturgeon or eel, or a species unknown to science, who knows. Nessie believers will have to wait a few more months for the final results.




Read more:
Bigfoot, the Kraken and night parrots: searching for the mythical or mysterious


It all started with a tweet

About two years ago Darren Naish had just published a book, Hunting Monsters, which included a section on Loch Ness. Over a few tweets I asked him if, in his research for the book, he had stumbled on anyone who was using eDNA to search for evidence of Nessie. The answer was no, but we both thought it a splendid idea.

I was becoming increasingly enamoured with the power of eDNA as a means to monitor the natural environment. Our team at the University of Otago was undertaking eDNA work that demonstrated amazing accuracy at identifying the species that resided in the marine ecosystems we studied.

Based on this, I was already thinking about how we might use eDNA to search for and identify the creatures that live in areas of our planet that are hard to investigate using traditional approaches – deep oceans, subterranean water systems and the like. Loch Ness seemed a perfect fit for that sort of project.

Career killer or opportunity?

As with many science ideas, that tweet ended up going into the “this is quite interesting” basket and there it sat until I got an email from Scottish journalist John Paul Breslin. When his article appeared in early April, many took it for an April Fool’s joke, but the story rapidly spread from Scotland to the rest of the world.

The media interest was overwhelming but I wasn’t sure if this was something I really wanted to do. At the time I was the head of a large department at a respected university, with an international reputation for doing quality work in the areas of molecular ecology and evolution. Some colleagues suggested the idea might be a career killer.

The turning point arrived one morning when I was dropping my son off at school. A large posse of eight- and nine-year-olds told me they thought the idea of hunting for the Loch Ness monster was the coolest thing ever. It resonated with me and led to this opportunity to engage the public, particularly kids, in the scientific process.

Loch Ness expert, Adrian Shine (right), had dredged the deep lake many times and is now helping to sample DNA traces of life.
Kieran Hennigan, CC BY-SA

One of the first stops was Loch Ness expert, Adrian Shine, who had dredged Loch Ness many times with nets and other devices and agreed to provide a boat and skipper. Several other colleagues all agreed to join the project and the team grew as we realised the Loch Ness monster hunt would describe the biodiversity of the lake in unprecedented fashion, add information about the movements of migratory fish species such as salmon, eels and lamprey, and be a hell of a science communication platform.

The ConversationSo, our project is not a simple monster hunt (although wouldn’t it be amazing if we did find something extraordinary during our investigation). Rather it is an amalgam of basic science, linked to major current initiatives, with a strong science communication aspect. Ultimately, we may find no DNA evidence that explains the monster myth, but I doubt that will ever dent belief. As Adrian Shine quips, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and those that wish to will continue to believe in monsters.

Neil Gemmell, Professor of Reproduction and Genomics

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Advertisements

Are solar panels a middle-class purchase? This survey says yes


File 20180606 137288 19a5k4i.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The latest research suggests that in Australia, rooftop solar photovoltaics are more likely to be adopted by middle-class households.
Author provided

Adam McHugh, Murdoch University

The rate of growth in residential rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV) in Australia since 2008 has been nothing short of breathtaking.

Our new research suggests that the households most likely to join in the solar spree are those that are affluent enough to afford the upfront investment, but not so wealthy that they don’t worry about their future power bills.

Australia now has the highest penetration of residential rooftop PV of any country in the world, with the technology having been installed on one in five freestanding or semi-detached homes. In the market-leading states of Queensland and South Australia this ratio is about one in three, and Western Australia is not far behind, with one in four having PV.

The explosion in rooftop PV uptake since 2008.
Derived from Clean Energy Regulator data. Click image to enlarge.

While PV panels give households more control over their electricity bills, and each new installation helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the market’s rapid expansion has posed significant challenges for the management of the electricity system as a whole.




Read more:
The electricity network is changing fast, here’s where we’re heading


Unlike other industries where goods can be warehoused or stockpiled to manage fluctuations in supply and demand, electricity is not yet readily storable. Storage options such as batteries are now commercially available, but haven’t yet reached widespread use. This means that a system operator is required to keep the grid balanced in real time, ideally with just the right amount of capacity and backup to manage shocks in supply or demand.

Securing the right amount of generation capacity for the electricity grid relies on long-term planning, informed by accurate supply and demand forecasts. Too much investment means excessive prices or assets lying idle (or both). Too little means longer, deeper or more frequent blackouts.

But as solar panels spread rapidly through the suburbs, the job of forecasting supply and demand is getting much harder.

This is because the commercial history of residential rooftop PV has been too short, and the pace of change too fast, for a clear uptake trend to be established. Previous attempts to predict the market’s continuing growth have thus entailed a lot of guesswork.

Why do people buy solar panels?

One way to improve our understanding is to talk to consumers directly about their purchasing intentions and decisions. The trick is to find out what prompts householders to take that final step from considering investing in solar panels, to actually buying them.

This was the approach we took with our research, published today in the international journal, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. We analysed data from a survey of more than 8,000 Queensland households in 2014 and 2015, part of a survey series commissioned by an industry group now known as Energy Queensland.

Comparison of motivational factors between surveyed PV intenders and adopters.
Bondio, Shahnazari & McHugh (2018). Click image to enlarge.

We found that the decision to go solar was driven largely by housholds’ concerns over rising electricity bills and the influence that economic life events have over perceptions of affordability.

But the households that tended to adopt PV were also those that were affluent enough not to be put off by the relatively large upfront cost.

This combination of having access to funds, while at the same time being concerned about future electricity prices, appears to be a broadly middle-class trait.

While the upfront cost of PV can deter lower-income households, this can be overcome by receiving an offer that is too good to refuse, or if concerns about ongoing electricity bills are acute – particularly in the case of retirees.

Electricity price uncertainty is a particular concern for retirees, who typically have a lower income. We found that retirees were more likely than non-retirees to invest in solar panels, all else being equal. Retirees, like many people who invest in solar power, seem to view buying solar panels as being like entering into a long-term contract for electricity supply, in that it provides price certainty over the life of the PV system.

We also found that while the idea of self-sufficiency was important for developing an intention to buy solar panels, this motivation later fell away among households that went ahead and bought them. This could be because householders who buy solar panels, but find themselves still relying significantly on the grid, may conclude that self-sufficiency isn’t achievable after all.

About one-third of those who said they intended to buy solar panels cited environmental concerns as a reason for their interest. Yet this factor did not significantly increase the odds of them going on to adopt the technology. This suggests that when it comes to the crunch, household finances are often the crucial determining factor.




Read more:
WA bathes in sunshine but the poorest households lack solar panels – that needs to change


We also found the chances of adopting solar panels were highest for homes with three or four bedrooms. Smaller homes may face practical limitations regarding roof space, whereas homes with five bedrooms or more are likely to be more valuable, suggesting that these householders may sit above a wealth threshold beyond which they are unconcerned about electricity bills.

But perhaps our most important finding is that analysis of household survey data can be useful to forecasters. Knowing who is adopting rooftop PV – and why – should enable better predictions to be made about the technology’s continuing expansion, including the crucial question of when the market might reach its saturation point.


The ConversationThe research paper can be downloaded here for free until August 1, 2018.

Adam McHugh, Honorary Research Associate, Murdoch University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

‘Epic Duck Challenge’ shows drones can outdo people at surveying wildlife



File 20180119 80171 5jolfq.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
A drone image of a breeding colony of Greater Crested Terns. Researchers used plastic bird decoys to replicate this species in an experiment that compared different ways of counting wildlife.
Jarrod Hodgson, CC BY-ND

Jarrod Hodgson, University of Adelaide; Aleks Terauds, and Lian Pin Koh, University of Adelaide

Ecologists are increasingly using drones to gather data. Scientists have used remotely piloted aircraft to estimate the health of fragile polar mosses, to measure and predict the mass of leopard seals, and even to collect whale snot. Drones have also been labelled as game-changers for wildlife population monitoring.

But once the take-off dust settles, how do we know if drones produce accurate data? Perhaps even more importantly, how do the data compare to those gathered using a traditional ground-based approach?

To answer these questions we created the #EpicDuckChallenge, which involved deploying thousands of plastic replica ducks on an Adelaide beach, and then testing various methods of tallying them up.

As we report today in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution, drones do indeed generate accurate wildlife population data – even more accurate, in fact, than those collected the old-fashioned way.

Jarrod Hodgson standing in one of the replica colonies of seabirds constructed for the #EpicDuckChallenge.
S. Andriolo

Assessing the accuracy of wildlife count data is hard. We can’t be sure of the true number of animals present in a group of wild animals. So, to overcome this uncertainty, we created life-sized, replica seabird colonies, each with a known number of individuals.

From the optimum vantage and in ideal weather conditions, experienced wildlife spotters independently counted the colonies from the ground using binoculars and telescopes. At the same time, a drone captured photographs of each colony from a range of heights. Citizen scientists then used these images to tally the number of animals they could see.

Counts of birds in drone-derived imagery were better than those made by wildlife observers on the ground. The drone approach was more precise and more accurate – it produced counts that were consistently closer to the true number of individuals.

Comparing the vantages: drone-derived photographs and the ground counter’s view.
J. Hodgson

The difference between the results was not trivial. Drone-derived data were between 43% and 96% more accurate than ground counts. The variation was due to how many pixels represented each bird, which in turn is related to the height that the drone was flown and the resolution of the camera.

This wasn’t a surprise. The experienced ground counters did well, but the drone’s vantage point was superior. Observing photos taken from above meant the citizen scientists did not have to contend with obscured birds that often occur during ground counts. The imagery also benefited the citizen scientists as they could digitally review their counts as many times as they needed. This reduced the likelihood of both missing an individual and counting an individual more than once.

The scientists were assisted by many volunteers, without whom the #EpicDuckChallenge would not have been possible.
J. Hodgson

However, even though it proved to be more accurate, making manual digital counts is still tedious and time-consuming. To address this, we developed a computer algorithm in the hope that it could further improve efficiency without diminishing data quality. And it did.

We delineated a proportion of birds in each colony to train the algorithm to recognise how the animal of interest appeared in the imagery. We found that using 10% training data was sufficient to produce a colony count that was comparable to that of a human reviewing the entire scene.

This computerisation can reduce the time needed to process data, providing the opportunity to cut the costs and resources needed to survey wildlife populations. When combined with the efficiencies drones provide for surveying sites that are hard to access on foot, these savings may be considerable.

Using drone monitoring in the field

Our results have important implications for a range of species. We think they are especially relevant to aggregating birds, including seabirds like albatrosses, surface nesting penguins and frigatebirds, as well as colonial nesting waterbirds like pelicans.

Other types of animals that are easily seen from above, including hauled-out seals and dugongs, are highly suited to drone monitoring. The nests or tracks of animals, such as orangutans and turtles, can also be used to infer presence.

Additional experiments will be useful to assess the ability of drones to survey animals that prefer to stay hidden and those within complex habitats. Such assessments are of interest to us, and researchers around the globe, with current investigations focused on wildlife such as arboreal mammals and cetaceans.

We are still learning about how wildlife react to the presence of drones, and more research is required to quantify these responses in a range of species and environments. The results will help to refine and improve drone monitoring protocols so that drones have minimal impact on wildlife. This is particularly important for species that are prone to disturbance, and where close proximity is not possible or desirable.




Read more:
How drones can help fight the war on shark attacks


The world is rapidly changing, with many negative outcomes for wildlife. Technology like drones can help scientists and managers gather data fast enough to enable timely assessment of the implications of these changes.

The ConversationWhen monitoring wildlife, increasing the accuracy and precision of animal surveys gives us more confidence in our population estimates. This provides a stronger evidence base on which to make management decisions or policy changes. For species and ecosystems threatened with extinction or irreparable damage, such speedy action could be a literal lifeline.

Jarrod Hodgson, PhD Candidate, University of Adelaide; Aleks Terauds, Senior Research Scientist / Section Head, and Lian Pin Koh, Professor, University of Adelaide

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Public support for climate action on the up after dark days: Climate Institute survey


James Whitmore, The Conversation

Public support for action on climate change is rebounding despite political uncertainty, according to survey results released today by The Climate Institute.

According to the poll, 65% of Australians think the nation should take a leadership position and 77% agree that climate change is happening, up from 70% in 2015.

The Climate Institute’s chief executive, John Connor, said that “public support on renewable energy and climate change is the strongest it’s been since 2008”.


The Climate Institute

Before then, a combination of drought, international action and bipartisan support for emissions trading had driven climate support to its highest level.

But the end of the drought, the global financial crisis and a disappointing outcome from the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks sent support crashing.

In Australia, the replacement of former opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull with Tony Abbott ended bipartisan climate ambition. This was soon followed by concerns about electricity prices under Labor’s carbon “tax”.

Connor attributed the recent upswing to people realising that “there’s no way Australia is out there by itself”. While only 50% of those surveyed knew about the Paris climate agreement, other issues such as renewable energy and electric vehicles are increasingly affecting people’s day-to-day lives.

When it comes to government performance, only 19% think the federal government is doing a good job on climate policy, while 90% believe the Commonwealth should play some role in climate mitigation.

When asked for their top three preferred energy sources, 86% included solar, while 70% included wind, 20% gas and only 12% chose coal. Support for solar and wind is growing, and support for coal and gas is declining.

Bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef this year seems to have increased concern over climate change’s impact on the reef, up from 75% in 2014 to 82% in the new survey.

Of the 77% who agree climate change is happening, some 90% agree that people are at least partly to blame, although only 39% think humans are the main cause.

The survey featured 2,000 participants and focus groups in major cities.

Will Grant, a science communications expert at the Australian National University, said the report “seems to show we’ve perhaps come out the dark days of climate politicisation”.

From a climate science communications perspective, everything was going in a good direction, he said. More people were supporting the consensus scientific position of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and more were calling for further action.

However, while government is a significant player in climate action, Grant said there needs to be a shift in focus towards new business leaders. People need to realise that “futures can be made in climate resolutions”, he said.

Matt McDonald, an international relations expert at the University of Queensland, said the report continues a trend of an “inverse relationship between public concern about climate change and government action”.

“Essentially, when they perceive that their government is doing little, Australians increasingly support strong action. When governments indicate an intention to commit Australia to substantive climate action, as the Rudd and Gillard governments experienced, public support seems less robust,” he said.

The difficult position Malcolm Turnbull is in with his own party would make it hard to make big changes, McDonald added. “Increasing public support for strong climate action that this report confirms may change those calculations, but after the last election we’re probably not there yet.”

The Conversation

James Whitmore, Editor, Environment & Energy, The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Survey: two-thirds of Great Barrier Reef tourists want to ‘see it before it’s gone’


Annah Piggott-McKellar, The University of Queensland and Karen Elizabeth McNamara, The University of Queensland

The health of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is declining – a fact that has not been lost on the world’s media.

The issue has made international headlines and attracted comment from public figures such as US President Barack Obama and British businessman Richard Branson.

Some media outlets and tourism operators have sought to downplay the effects, presumably to try to mitigate the impact on tourism. The industry provides roughly 65,000 jobs and contributes more than A$5 billion a year to the Australian economy.

But our research suggests that the ailing health of the GBR has in fact given tourists a new reason to visit, albeit one that doesn’t exactly promise a long-term future.

When we surveyed hundreds of GBR tourists last year, 69% of them said they had opted to visit the reef “before it is gone” – and that was before the latest bleaching generated fresh international headlines about its plight.

‘Last chance’ tourism

“Last chance tourism” (LCT) is a phenomenon whereby tourists choose to visit a destination that is perceived to be in danger, with the express intention of seeing it before it’s gone.

The media obviously play a large role in this phenomenon – the more threatened the public perceives a destination to be, the bigger the market for LCT.

There’s a vicious cycle at play here: tourists travel to see a destination before it disappears, but in so doing they contribute to its demise, either directly through on-site pressures or, in the case of climate-threatened sites such as the GBR, through greenhouse gas emissions. These added pressures increase the vulnerability of the destination and in turn push up the demand for LCT still further.

The GBR often features on lists of tourist destinations to see before they disappear, alongside places such as Glacier National Park, the Maldives and the Galapagos Islands.

While the media have proclaimed the reef to be an LCT destination, it has not previously been empirically confirmed that tourists are indeed motivated to visit specifically because of its vulnerable status.

Surveying reef tourists

We wanted to find out how many of the GBR’s holidaymakers are “last chance” tourists. To that end, we surveyed 235 tourists visiting three major tourism hotspots, Port Douglas, Cairns and Airlie Beach, to identify their leading motivations for visiting.

We gave them a suggested list of 15 reasons, including “to see the reef before it is gone”; “to rest and relax”; “to discover new places and things”, and others. We then asked them to rate the importance of each reason on a five-point scale, from “not at all” to “extremely”.

We found that 69% of tourists were either “very” or “extremely” motivated to see the reef before it was gone. This reason attracted the highest proportion of “extremely” responses (37.9%) of any of the 15 reasons.

This reason was also ranked the fourth-highest by average score on the five-point scale. The top three motivations by average score were: “to discover new places and things”; “to rest and relax; and “to get away from the demands of everyday life”.

Our results also confirmed that the media have played a large role in shaping tourists’ perceptions of the GBR. The internet was the most used information source (68.9% of people) and television the third (54.4%), with word of mouth coming in second (57%).

Airlie Beach, a great spot for some last-chance tourism.
Damien Dempsey/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

Our findings suggest that the GBR’s tribulations could offer a short-term tourism boost, as visitors flock to see this threatened natural wonder. But, in the long term, the increased tourism might exacerbate the pressure on this already vulnerable region – potentially even hastening the collapse of this ecosystem and the tourism industry that relies on its health.

This paradox is deepened further when we consider that many of the tourists in our survey who said they were visiting the reef to “see it before it is gone” nevertheless had low levels of concern about their own impacts on the region.

Where to from here?

We undertook our survey in 2015, before this year’s bleaching event, described as the most severe in the GBR’s history.

This raises another question: is there a threshold beyond which the GBR is seen as “too far gone” to visit? If so, might future more frequent or severe bleaching episodes take us past that threshold?

As the most important source of information for tourists visiting the GBR, the media in particular need to acknowledge their own important role in informing the public. Media outlets need to portray the reef’s current status as accurately as possible. The media’s power and influence also afford them a great opportunity to help advocate for the GBR’s protection.

Educating tourists about the threats facing the GBR is an important way forward, particularly as our research identified major gaps in tourists’ understanding of the specific threats facing the GBR and the impacts of their own behaviour. Many survey respondents, for instance, expressed low levels of concern about agricultural runoff, despite this being one of the biggest threats facing the GBR.

Of course, tourism is just one element in a complex web of issues that affect the GBR and needs to be part of a wider consideration of the reef’s future.

The only thing that is certain is that more needs to be done to ensure this critical ecosystem can survive, so that tourists who think this is the last chance to see it can hopefully be proved wrong.

The Conversation

Annah Piggott-McKellar, PhD Candidate, The University of Queensland and Karen Elizabeth McNamara, Senior lecturer, The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Survey: more Australians want climate action now than before the carbon tax


Deborah Cotton, University of Technology Sydney

In April 2011, not long after Julia Gillard was returned to power in the 2010 federal election, I asked a representative sample of Australians about their attitudes to climate policy.

Climate was a water-cooler issue at the time. The carbon tax legislation had been introduced into Parliament in March, paving the way for a subsequent emissions trading scheme.

That scheme bit the dust in 2014 after becoming a hotly debated issue during the rancorous 2013 election campaign, but carbon policy has not had the same high profile during the current campaign. My colleagues and I decided to repeat our survey and see whether attitudes really have cooled on global warming.

Despite climate policy being something of a sleeper issue in this election, our results suggest that concern about the climate is more widespread now than it was five years ago.

We found that 75% of people surveyed believe it to be an important global issue, and 74% see climate as an important issue for Australia.

As to what we should do about it, we found that 57% of people want Australia to act on climate change irrespective of whether other countries do or not. This is significantly more than in 2011, when 50% of people were in this category.

A further 28% in our new survey think that action should be taken only if there were concerted international policy action, whereas just 15% would prefer that Australia take no action at all. When asked why they did not want to proceed, 34% of them stated that they only wanted to proceed if global action was taken.

These are fairly clear indicators that Australians are not complacent about the need for climate action.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/iZwqz/1/

What policies do voters want?

Both of the major political parties have committed to emissions targets: the Liberals have a target of a 26-28% reduction relative to 2005 levels by 2030, whereas Labor has pledged a 45% cut over the same time frame. Both are modest in comparison with the Climate Change Authority’s recommended cut of 40-60% by 2030 relative to 2000 levels.

As for the policies needed to meet these targets, Labor has proposed an emissions trading scheme, but some details are still vague. The Liberal Party is persisting with its Direct Action plan to “auction” emissions reduction projects to the cheapest corporate bidders.

Our survey, however, suggests that many voters’ preferred policy is a mixture, potentially including a carbon tax, an emissions trading scheme and other direct action policies. Some 40% of respondents preferred this policy mix, up from 31% in 2011. Support for carbon taxation or emissions trading as standalone policies both fell relative to five years ago.

When divided according to voting intentions, all groups preferred a policy mix to any of the other choices. This preference was strongest for “unsure voters”, who made up nearly a quarter of our respondents. For Labor and Greens voters, the most favoured second-choice option was a carbon tax, while no single policy (not even Direct Action) came a close second among Liberal voters.

The numbers get even more intriguing when we split them by gender, age and income. We found that 82% of females see the issue of climate change as important at a global level, and the same proportion described it as important at a local level; this was 15 and 16 percentage points, respectively, greater than among their male counterparts. There was a similar 15-point gender difference in the desire to proceed on climate policy irrespective of global action.

This desire for climate policy irrespective of global action was the dominant view in every age group, although we found that it declined among older groups. The 55-59 age group was the weakest in its support for climate action and the most likely (at 36%) to select “no policy” as the desired climate response.

In our 2011 study, higher incomes were associated with less desire for climate policy. This was replicated in 2016, as can be seen in the graph below – note the significant increase in support for “no climate action” among those with salaries over A$110,000.

https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/QRTCj/1/

As these stats show, concern about climate change is relatively steady until we get to the highest income bracket, where it drops off significantly. There are several potential explanations, including the suggestion that those with higher incomes will be less adversely affected by climate change because they can afford to ameliorate its impacts.

But if there is a take-home message for politicians in these numbers, I would suggest it is this: even in those groups with the lowest levels of climate concern, a majority is still worried about the issue and wants to see action.

Perhaps, in the midst of the longest election campaign since the 1960s, it might be worth finding a bit more time to acknowledge that.

The Conversation

Deborah Cotton, Lecturer in Finance, University of Technology Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.