Survey Says: Act Now to Reduce Global Warming

Andrew Burger

An overwhelming majority of Americans support actions to reduce global warming and mitigate climate change despite the tough economic times or what other countries do, according to a national survey by Yale and George Mason University researchers.

Despite the tough economic times, more than 90 percent of Americans said that the U.S. should take actions to reduce global warming. Moreover, two-thirds of Americans believe that the U.S. should take action regardless of what other countries do, according to a nationwide survey conducted by researchers at George Mason and Yale Universities.

survey shows people want action on global warming

Large majorities of Americans "strongly support" a variety of climate change and renewable energy policies: 92 percent strongly support funding for renewable energy R&D, 85 percent are for tax rebates for buying fuel-efficient vehicles or solar panels, and 80 percent strongly support regulating carbon dioxide emissions as a pollutant.

"When you make a mess, you're supposed to clean up after yourself," said Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale University. "We think many Americans view climate change in a similar way. The United States should act to reduce its own emissions regardless of what other countries do."

Fuel Efficiency, Green Power Standards & Cap & Trade

Similarly large groups of respondents favor policies and initiatives with economic costs and targets that are stated directly. Nearly 80 percent supported a 45-mpg fuel efficiency standard for cars, trucks and SUVs, even if that meant paying up to $1,000 more per vehicle. More than 70 percent supported renewable power standards requiring electric utilities to source at least 20 percent of their power from renewable sources, according to the survey results, even if it would add $100 a year to their electric bills.

Respondents were less supportive of creating a national cap-and-trade market for emissions, however, suggesting that the President and lawmakers need to do more in the way of convincing the American public of the benefits and effectiveness of such a system. Only 11 percent of Americans strongly supported such a program and 23 percent strongly opposed it.

"If the president and members of Congress want to pass cap-and- trade legislation this year, they would be wise to quickly take steps to educate the American people," said Edward Maibach of George Mason University.

Positive Outcomes

Americans believe that taking actions to reduce global warming will result in a variety of positive outcomes, according to the survey results. Two-thirds said it would result in better lives for their children and grandchildren and save many plant and animal species from extinction. About half said that it would improve people's health and free the U.S. from its dependence on foreign oil.

Nearly half of survey respondents said they are or intend to take information related to businesses' climate change actions and impact into account when making purchases. Lack of good, reliable information is a barrier to consumer action, however: two-thirds said they didn't know which companies deserve to be punished.

A nationally representative sample of 2,164 adults, age 18 and older were surveyed for this study. The sample population was weighted according to U.S. Census Bureau parameters so that the margin of sampling error was +/- 2 percent with a 95% confidence interval. Designed by researchers at Yale and George Mason, it was conducted on-line by Knowledge Networks in September and October.

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