American Opinion on Climate Change Warms Up

Report Summary

Public concern about global warming appears to be on the rise again, after a year of significant declines, according to a new national survey conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

Since January, public belief that global warming is happening rose four points, to 61 percent, while belief that it is caused mostly by human activities rose three points, to 50 percent. The number of Americans who worry about global warming rose three points, to 53 percent. And the number of Americans who said that the issue is personally important to them rose five points, to 63 percent.

The stabilization and slight rebound in public opinion is occurring amid signs the economy is starting to recover, along with consumer confidence, and as memories of unusual snowstorms and scientific scandals recede. The BP oil disaster is also reminding the public of the dark side of dependence on fossil fuels, which may be increasing support for clean energy policies.

Americans who said President Obama and Congress should make developing sources of clean energy a high priority increased 11 points, to 71 percent, while those who said that global warming should be a high priority rose six points, to 44 percent. In a seven-point increase since January, 69 percent of Americans said that the United States should make a large or medium-scale effort to reduce global warming even if it incurs large or moderate economic costs.

Current public support for specific policy options (and changes since January, 2010) include:

  • 87% support funding more research into renewable energy sources (+2)
  • 83% support tax rebates for people who buy fuel-efficient vehicles and solar panels (+1)
  • 77% support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant (+6)
  • 65% support signing an international treaty that requires the United States to cut its emissions of carbon dioxide 90 percent by the year 2050 (+4)
  • 61% support requiring electric utilities to produce at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources, even if it cost the average household an extra $100 per year (+2)
  • Support for expanding offshore drilling for oil and gas off the U.S. coast fell to 62% (-5)

The U.S. Senate is preparing to vote this week on a resolution that would block the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant. Interestingly, however, 77 percent of Americans support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, including 64 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of Independents, and 91 percent of Democrats.

The two reports can be downloaded here:

  1. Americans’ Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in June, 2010
  2. Public Support for Climate & Energy Policies in June, 2010