As the Senate Energy and Public Works Committee began hearings today on the Kerry-Boxer Clean Energy Jobs and American Act, the Senate version of climate and energy legislation, a CNN/Opinion Research poll shows 60% of respondents favor cap-and-trade, the central mechanism limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
In a survey conducted October 16 to 18, 1,038 adults were asked:
Under a proposal called "cap and trade," the federal government would limit the amount of greenhouse gases that companies could produce in their factories or power plants. If companies exceeded those limits, they would either pay a fine or pay money to other companies that produced smaller amounts of greenhouse gases. Would you favor or oppose this proposal?"
60 percent of respondents were in favor, 37 percent opposed, and 3 percent had no opinion. There is the expected political divide on the issue, as well as a generational one. A majority of youngsters under 50, 68 percent, favor cap-and-trade, oldsters over 50 are split down the middle on the issue. If that has anything to do with older people suffering the short-term cost of transitioning to a decarbonized energy economy without much time to reap the rewards, combined with younger people fearing the cost of inaction now on their later years, is pure speculation on my part.
CNN Polling Director Keating Holland had a more studied observation saying the poll is "one more example of the growing generation gap that is shaping politics and policy in this country. Younger Americans voted for Obama and tend to welcome change. Older Americans were less enamored of change in the 2008 election and senior citizens were the only age group that voted for John McCain."
As for the politics, there is little surprise that 3 in 4 democrats favor climate legislation, along with 6 in 10 independents. Republicans grouse along, with only 4 in 10 stalwart souls able to buck the party and back an emissions trading scheme. Which highlights the importance of independents.
The support of independents will be crucial to any cap and trade proposal," Holland says. "Independents may not be red or blue, but they appear to be green. Earlier polls indicate that Independents believe in global warming and believe that the government can take steps to curtail the problem. But the environment is not a big priority for Independents, as it is with Democrats."
The poll was released barely a week after a Pew Research poll reported that fewer Americans believe that climate change is really happening, or if it is, human activity play no significant role in it. So we American don't believe that global warming is real, but just in case it is, we favor cap-and-trade - a kind of climate Pascal's Wager.
The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.
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