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Australians are googling climate change much more than during the last federal election

Discussion of climate policy may be conspicuously absent this federal election campaign, but Google search data suggests the warming of the planet is weighing on voters’ minds — at least more so than in 2019.

Catastrophic, climate-fueled bushfires and floods have been seen asking Google what it’s all about, experts say.

Around the country, searches of climate-related questions including “what is climate change meaning?”, “how does climate change affect bushfires?” and “is climate change getting better?” have increased more than 5,000 per cent since the last federal election.

This data is normalized, meaning interest has increased relative to that of other topics. More people using Google doesn’t explain why it’s gone up.

So, does the data on what millions of Australians are asking Google give us special insight into voters’ collective concerns? Is climate change a bigger concern for voters this election?

Floods, fires driving search interest

For the past year and a half, social researcher Rebecca Huntley has been conducting focus groups to understand the varying levels of concern with climate change among Australians.

The Google search data broadly aligns with the focus group results.

“What we are seeing is people registering the unprecedented impacts of climate on the world today,” she said.

Various polls, from YouGov to readers’ surveys, make a similar point: climate change is a hot-button issue.

Vote Compass data shows an overwhelming number of Australians want more action to reduce carbon emissions.

The basic theory as to why this is happening now rather than, say, three years ago, is “stuff builds up”.

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