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Muhlenberg College Survey: Emission Reduction Remains Public’s Preferred Approach To Dealing With Climate Change; If We Don’t Act Now It Will Cost More Later

By Barry G. Rabe, Brookings Institution & Christopher Borick, Director Muhlenberg College Institute Of Public Opinion

The 25th National Surveys On Energy and the Environment conducted by Muhlenberg College was recently released on the public’s opinions on energy and climate policy and beliefs.  Here is a summary of the findings--

Americans continue to favor reducing greenhouse gas emissions as their preferred approach for staving off the worst impacts of climate change, according to new public opinion findings.

The public remains considerably more skeptical of any pivot from mitigation toward climate policy that prioritizes adaptation, use of geoengineering that releases particles into the atmosphere in attempting to deter warming, or subterranean carbon storage.

These findings emerge from the Winter 2022 National Surveys on Energy and Environment (NSEE).

This survey took place following the release of a series of reports that American and global greenhouse gas emissions climbed significantly in 2021 after a short-lived pandemic decline.

The 117th Congress has struggled to deliver on bold vows of far-reaching climate legislation and November’s global climate summit in Glasgow largely failed to advance international efforts.

At the same time, increasing evidence mounted of intensifying climate impacts in America and beyond.

Are Americans ready to punt on mitigation and embrace alternatives?

Given a choice of three distinct options for addressing climate change, pursuit of greenhouse gas reductions was favored (42%) over adapting to a warmer world (13%) or promoting geoengineering and related efforts (20%).

Ten percent of respondents noted that all three were equally important.

The new NSEE survey examined American public opinion on these trade-offs as belief that global temperatures are warming overall reached an all-time high (76%).

Decisive majorities of respondents view climate change as a serious problem (69%-to-30%), believe that it will harm people living in the United States (63%-to-33%), and characterize climate change as a “public health emergency” (55%-to-42%).

Majorities of Americans contend that they have “personally felt the effects” of climate change (57%-to-41%), although slightly less than half think climate change will harm them a great or moderate amount (47%-to-52%).

Americans also decisively agree (69%-to-27%) with the statement: “If we don’t act now, climate change is going to cost a lot more later.”

It is not clear that any broad public consensus exists on how best to act to mitigate climate impacts.

But despite prolonged political combat over policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Americans harbor serious reservations over alternatives focused on adaptation or deployment of new technologies to either atmospherically block warming or store released emissions below ground.

Adaptation has received growing attention in recent years, shifting focus toward how societies might adjust to climate change rather than minimize it. But there is no groundswell of support for adaptation as a substitute for mitigation.

Clear majorities oppose shifting emphasis from mitigation to “adapting to a warmer climate” (61%-to-34%) and disagree that humans will be able to adapt to a hotter climate “without making significant changes to their lifestyles” (60%-to-34%).

A majority of Americans agreed that “technological advancements” may be the best way to contend with American reluctance to alter their lifestyles to address climate change. But such technological options as geoengineering or carbon storage lack demonstrable support.

Considerable doubt endures about either strategy, with little opinion shifting from identical questions posed in 2011.

A narrow majority of Americans (51%-to-40%) disagrees with the assertion that scientists can find ways to alter the climate to reduce risks.

A decisive majority (62%-to-14%) disagrees with the claim that adding materials to the atmosphere to avert warming temperatures can be more beneficial than harmful to the environment.

Click Here for complete poll results.


-- WITF Smart Talk: Muhlenberg Poll Finds Most Americans Say They’ve Felt The Effects Of Climate Change. 9:30 a.m.

[Posted: May 11, 2022]


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