Most Americans concerned about human-caused warming — poll

Source: By Ines Kagubare, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Nearly three-quarters of Americans believe climate change is happening, and most agree it is caused by human activity, according to a new poll.

The poll, conducted by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, found that 71 percent of Americans think climate change is real, while only 9 percent do not. Nineteen percent are unsure.

Among those who believe climate change is real, 60 percent think it is primarily caused by human activities, while just 12 percent believe it is mostly or entirely caused by natural environmental changes.

“The results of the survey demonstrate that most Americans consider climate change a reality and acknowledge that human activity is at least somewhat responsible,” said Trevor Tompson, director of the AP-NORC Center, in a press release.

Beliefs divided along party lines, as expected. Eighty-six percent of Democratic voters believe climate change is real, while 52 percent of Republican and 70 percent of independent voters agree, the poll found.

Further, the survey found that nearly half of Americans say the science of climate change is more conclusive than it was five years ago. Among those, 76 percent credit recent extreme weather events like hurricanes, wildfires and floods for changing their views. Just 47 percent cite the media as having influenced their opinion on climate change.

Nearly half of those surveyed support a carbon tax; 29 percent oppose one, and 25 percent neither support nor oppose such a policy. The support varies when respondents are asked how the funds from a carbon tax should be invested. More than 50 percent said they would support a carbon fee if the revenue were invested toward environmental restoration or renewable energy research and development. But that support drops slightly to 49 percent if the funds go to households as a rebate.

“Reinvesting in the environment and improving environmental quality are things that people tend to think as good things … and they react positively to that,” said Sam Ori, EPIC director, in an interview.

The survey also found that, in addition to supporting a carbon tax, more than half of respondents are willing to pay at least $1 on their monthly electricity bill to combat climate change. But the higher the amount, the less support there is for a monthly fee.

“I kind of thought maybe going into this poll — given all of the recent extreme weather — that you would not only see more support for things like a carbon tax but also see an increase in the willingness to pay,” Ori said.

The survey was conducted in November 2018 and drew from about 1,200 respondents from across the country.