More than 80% of Americans support U.S. climate goals

Source: Benjamin Hulac, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, September 16, 2016

A strong majority of Americans think the United States should meet its obligations under the Paris climate agreement, though they doubt nations abroad will uphold their end of the bargain, according to an Associated Press and University of Chicago poll released today.

The survey found that 80 percent of Americans want the United States to try to cut its emissions, as the deal requires, even if foreign nations, such as India and China, do not.

Hardly any of those polled think China and India will follow through on their pledges from Paris to reduce carbon emissions — at just 7 and 6 percent, respectively.

“Eighty-two percent of the people believe that the United States should follow through on their Paris commitments no matter what other countries are doing,” said Michael Greenstone, director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, which conducted the poll.

“While climate change has in the past eight years become an increasingly divisive issue in American politics, we do find widespread agreement that the U.S. should be a leader on this issue globally,” Trevor Tompson, director of the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, said in a statement.

Still, the poll found Americans aren’t confident the United States will meet its Paris commitments. Only 25 percent said they believe that will happen.

More than 190 nations agreed at the Paris climate talks in December to peak emissions “as soon as possible,” an effort to hold global temperatures from rising to a dangerous level (ClimateWire, Jan. 11).

“I think we’re seeing a firming up, an increase in people’s preferences for recognizing climate as a problem and a desire to do something about it,” Greenstone said.

However, he added, that desire doesn’t seem to have filtered into politics. “I don’t think that has acutely penetrated the political discourse yet,” he said.

The poll also found that 65 percent of U.S. citizens think climate change is a problem the government should tackle, while 12 percent said it’s real but the government shouldn’t get involved. And 13 percent are unsure if climate change is occurring.

In today’s poll and others on climate change, political affiliation divides opinions.

Asked if climate change is a “problem the government should address,” 84 percent of Democrats, 55 percent of independents and 43 percent of Republicans agreed.

Those results follow the trends of other polling on climate.

In April, a Pew Research Center poll found 68 percent of Democrats and 20 percent of Republicans agreed that “global climate change is a very serious problem.”

A Gallup survey, conducted March 2-6, concluded that 84 percent of Democrats worry “a great deal” or a “fair amount” about global warming, compared with 40 percent of Republicans.

Greenstone said he was surprised respondents would be willing to pay monthly fees to fight climate change.

While 57 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for a ballot proposal that would increase their monthly power bill by $1, 39 percent said they would vote for a measure that would increase the cost of their bill by $10 a month. And 20 percent said they would back a monthly fee of $50.

“What I found striking was that there’s much more support for a carbon price than I think is commonly understood,” Greenstone said.

The AP/University of Chicago survey sampled 1,096 adults nationwide online and on mobile phones and landlines Aug. 11-14. It has a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points.