Everyone’s talking about the Stanford-Times climate change poll that came out last Thursday. Simply, it showed that Americans are way ahead of their lawmakers in terms of recognizing that human activities help cause climate change and that humans can do something about it.
Resoundingly ahead. The new climate change poll shows that unlike Washington politicians, a huge majority of Americans—more than four out of five respondents (81%)—understand that human activities contribute to global warming and are willing to say so. No big news, though: people have been thinking along those lines since at least 2007. The percentage has just grown a lot in 2015.
What’s really new in this 2015 look at electoral thinking is that about the same number (83%, including 61% of Republicans) think if we do nothing reduce emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, global warming will be a serious problem in the future. People 1, Congress 0.
Sheldon Whitehouse (D, RI) proposed one of the Senate votes on climate change during the Keystone XL debate, and he thinks Republican politicians don’t have a clue about climate change:
“They are all over the place. There is one who says it’s not even happening. There are the others who say the climate is changing, but we have nothing to do with it. There are others who say the climate is changing and we have something to do with it. And then there are others who say the climate is changing and we have a lot to do with it and we should do something about it.”
Articles about the climate change poll have made the most of its political implications, especially for the 2016 presidential race. Two-thirds of Americans say they would vote for a candidate who actively campaigns on doing something about climate. More Republican responders than not say they are less likely to support candidates who deny or misunderstand the science.
While the pollers did not phrase the question in those terms, they found by 78-19 that people believe the federal government should limit greenhouse gases emissions from US industry. Do they believe industry will take the initiative on its own? No question here, thus no answer. Regardless of how people feel about industry commitment, which the climate change poll did not measure, the respondents put very great faith in the influence of government—a conundrum, considering how many would like to dismantle it.
Also no word about a timetable. NBC News and The Wall Street Journal broke out views on this question last June (right). Their report: an overwhelming majority (85%) want something done about climate change, over 60% want deeds rather than more words, and 31% want action now (er, last year).
And although the new poll says nearly half of Republicans (48%) support government steps toward regulating greenhouse gases, check out the Yale Climate Project combination of six national polls of Republicans taken between March 2012 and October 2014 (below). Are we heading backwards?
Given government action, those polled last week news believe that businesses would implement climate initiatives if only the government would give them a financial break. The incentive people favor: overwhelmingly (4 out of 5), giving companies tax breaks for producing more electricity from water, wind, and solar power. No mention here whether companies would do so without government incentives. It is clear, though, that respondents do not believe in tax breaks for new nuclear power (36-61%). Although they’re not keen on any tax increases, they favor a gasoline tax over an electricity tax by more than 10%.
That’s about it—a relatively simple poll that elaborated on something about politics but said little about depth of citizen perception about climate change. Are people aware that it will take more than roofing megastores with solar panels and painting garbage trucks green to address the problem?
But methods are for another survey. Aside from a little more politics, the main news we get from this global warming poll is about personal views. More than two-thirds of Americans (71%) expect that climate change will hurt them personally within their own lifetimes. It seems a gloomy forecast, but as far as getting people, business, and government to start adapting, it’s big step in the right direction.