Quantcast

Majority of Americans Wants Climate Action, Survey Finds

Climate
People's Climate March in New York City on Sept. 21, 2014. Elizabeth Stilwell / Flickr

Whether or not the Trump administration knows or cares, a majority of Americans wants government action on climate change.

For the past ten years, the University of Michigan and Muhlenberg College have asked Americans their opinions on energy and climate policies in biannual National Surveys on Energy and Environment (NSEE).


A March report on the past decade of surveys reveals that, in fall 2017, more Americans who believe in climate change answered that urgent government action is required to combat it than at any other point in the survey's history.

"For the past decade or so, and even last year, about 70 percent of Americans [who believe climate change is happening] say that the government needs to act urgently to address climate change," Sarah B. Mills, one of the report's authors and the senior project manager with the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, told Michigan Radio on Tuesday. "On the latest survey, in the fall, it was 76 percent. So that's where we've seen the biggest jump in recent times," she said.

Mills speculated that the jump in urgency might have been a response to Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement.

In the same Fall 2017 survey, 52 percent of all Americans said the federal government "has a great deal of responsibility … for taking actions to reduce global warming." Fewer numbers of Americans thought state and local governments had the same level of responsibility to act, with 41 percent assigning high responsibility to states and 34 percent to cities and counties.

Opinions did vary by party affiliation, with 69 percent of Democrats and only 30 percent of Republicans saying the federal government had a large role to play.

However, the report found that on individual climate issues Republicans were more receptive to government action than the rhetoric of their party often suggests.

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was working on developing a policy for reducing industrial emissions in spring 2013, 51 percent of Republicans said they would want their state to work with the EPA to achieve that goal. In fall 2014, after the EPA had proposed the Clean Power Plan (CPP) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electrical power plants, 60 percent of Republicans said they approved of the measure. The EPA under Scott Pruitt has since initiated the process of repealing the CPP.

The survey results also hint at how other environmental fights instigated by the Trump administration might play out in the public eye. Currently, Pruitt is in conflict with the state of California over the fate of Obama-era auto emissions standards. Pruitt's EPA looks likely to lower national standards, but California enjoys a waiver under the Clean Air Act that allows it to set higher standards than the nation. If the EPA does try to revoke that waiver, as some have speculated, the public would likely side with the state.

According to the fall 2017 NSEE, 65 percent of Americans think their state has a responsibility to act on climate change if the federal government refuses to do so. Further, when the fall 2009 and 2010 surveys asked if states should be allowed to set stricter emissions standards than the national government, 75 percent and 64 percent, respectively, said they should. The spring 2017 NSEE asked about California's waiver specifically and found that 56 percent of Americans supported it.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire on Nov. 15, 2018 in Paradise, Calif. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Respecting scientists has never been a priority for the Trump Administration. Now, a new investigation from The Guardian revealed that Department of the Interior political appointees sought to play up carbon emissions from California's wildfires while hiding emissions from fossil fuels as a way to encourage more logging in the national forests controlled by the Interior department.

Read More
Slowing deforestation, planting more trees, and cutting emissions of non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases like methane could cut another 0.5 degrees C or more off global warming by 2100. South_agency / E+ / Getty Images

By Dana Nuccitelli

Killer hurricanes, devastating wildfires, melting glaciers, and sunny-day flooding in more and more coastal areas around the world have birthed a fatalistic view cleverly dubbed by Mary Annaïse Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council as "de-nihilism." One manifestation: An increasing number of people appear to have grown doubtful about the possibility of staving-off climate disaster. However, a new interactive tool from a climate think tank and MIT Sloan shows that humanity could still meet the goals of the Paris agreement and limit global warming.

Read More
Sponsored
A baby burrowing owl perched outside its burrow on Marco Island, Florida. LagunaticPhoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Burrowing owls, which make their homes in small holes in the ground, are having a rough time in Florida. That's why Marco Island on the Gulf Coast passed a resolution to pay residents $250 to start an owl burrow in their front yard, as the Marco Eagle reported.

Read More
Amazon and other tech employees participate in the Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice continue to protest today. Karen Ducey / Getty Images

Hundreds of Amazon workers publicly criticized the company's climate policies Sunday, showing open defiance of the company following its threats earlier this month to fire workers who speak out on climate change.

Read More
Locusts swarm from ground vegetation as people approach at Lerata village, near Archers Post in Samburu county, approximately 186 miles north of Nairobi, Kenya on Jan. 22. "Ravenous swarms" of desert locusts in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia threaten to ravage the entire East Africa subregion, the UN warned on Jan. 20. TONY KARUMBA / AFP / Getty Images

East Africa is facing its worst locust infestation in decades, and the climate crisis is partly to blame.

Read More