There's nothing like hitting people where they live to goad them into action.
After a year of record fires in California and floods in Texas and on the East Coast, more Americans are taking climate change seriously—and significant portions are willing to take financial steps to combat it.
The first poll, from the University of Chicago Energy Policy Institute [PDF], shows that more frequent extreme weather events are causing Americans to shift their views on climate change, and that 60 percent, across all political stripes, believe it is caused primarily by human activity. Among the 48 percent who say that climate science has become more persuasive in the past five years, three quarters cite recent extreme weather events for changing their views.
The other poll, released by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, shows that 46 percent of Americans say they have already been personally harmed by global warming, and 48 percent say they believe global warming is harming Americans in general. In the Yale study, a similar 62 percent believe that global warming is primarily caused by human activities, and 69 percent are at least somewhat worried about its effects.
Growing concern over global warming could spur interest in electric cars that use less energy and rely on electric power that is getting steadily cleaner in the U.S.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents in the Yale poll say global warming is affecting weather in the United States, and half of those believe it is affecting weather "a lot." About half blame global warming for making fires on the West Coast and hurricanes Michael and Florida worse. More than half are worried about heat waves, flooding, droughts, and water shortages becoming worse where they live.
The poll shows that climate-science deniers have begun to lose the battle of public perception. More respondents than at any time since 2008 (57 percent) recognize that a majority of climate scientists agree that global warming is happening, although only 20 percent recognized how strong that consensus is—90 percent of climate scientists say that human activity is causing climate change.
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Almost half of respondents, 46 percent, find it at least moderately important in their social circles to take action to combat climate change, and 40 percent say they have family or friends who already are.
Only 14 percent believe that it is already too late to do anything about global warming.
In the University of Chicago survey, 83 percent of the large majority who say global warming is happening believe the federal government should take action to reduce it. Another 80 percent say states should take action, and 76 percent say local communities should. Almost half, 44 percent, would support a carbon tax to reduce new emissions of greenhouse gases.
Majorities would support a carbon tax if the money went to restore forests, wetlands, and other parts of the environment; fund research and development into renewable energy sources; or expand public transportation. Fewer would support such a tax if the money were returned to taxpayers as a rebate or went to pay down federal debt.
A majority of 57 percent would support a fee of no more than $1 a month on their electric bill to support efforts to reduce climate change. Such fees could, for example, go toward building more renewable wind and solar electric generation capability in users' local areas.
Green Car Reports respectfully reminds its readers that the scientific validity of climate change is not a topic for debate in our comments. We ask that any comments by climate-change denialists be flagged for moderation. We also ask that political discussions be restricted to the topic of the article they follow. Thank you in advance for helping us keep our comments on topic, civil, respectful, family-friendly, and fact-based.