Climate Change in the San Franciscan Mind

Report Summary


  • Most San Franciscans (87%) believe global warming is happening. Few (5%) believe it is not.
  • Two in three (67%) believe that if global warming is happening, it is caused mostly by human activities.
  • San Franciscans think global warming is important and are worried about it. Nine in ten (89%) say the issue of global warming is at least somewhat important to them personally. And three in four (77%) are at least somewhat worried about it.
  • Seven in ten San Franciscans (69%) understand that “most scientists think global warming is happening.” Fewer (25%) believe “there is a lot of disagreement among scientists” about whether or not global warming is happening.
  • Among those who believe global warming is happening, solid majorities believe it is currently having a large or moderate influence on the severity of heat waves (73%), drought (72%), and reduced snowpack in the mountains (71%) in California.
  • About two in three San Franciscans (63%) say they have personally experienced the effects of global warming.
  • Among San Franciscans who believe global warming is happening, large majorities expect to see a myriad of negative effects from it over the next 50 years. Nine in ten anticipate more droughts and water shortages (91%), heat waves (89%), or declining numbers of fish and native wildlife (89%). At least eight in ten and believe the area will experience increased allergies, asthma, infectious diseases, or other health problems (83%) and more power outages (80%).
  • Two in three San Franciscans who believe global warming is happening (66%) expect that parts of San Francisco will have to be abandoned in the next 50 years due to sea level rise.
  • More than half of San Franciscans say that more should be done about global warming at all levels of government—from Congress (69%) and President Obama (63%), to California state legislators (66%) and Governor Brown (62%), to local government officials (63%). However, even larger numbers of San Franciscans believe that citizens themselves (77%) or corporations and industry (75%) should be doing more to address climate change.
  • Three in four San Franciscans (75%) say the United States should reduce greenhouse gas emissions regardless of whether or not other countries do the same.
  • Many San Franciscans believe that individual action, and especially collective action, can be effective in addressing global warming. Among those who believe global warming is happening, most (91%) say their own actions would reduce their personal contribution to global warming at least a little. Virtually all San Franciscans who believe global warming is happening say that if the same actions were taken by most people in the U.S. (94%) or around the world (96%), it would reduce global warming a little, some, or a lot.
  • More than half of San Franciscans (58%) say that switching from fossil fuels to clean energy sources would increase economic growth and the number of jobs in San Francisco.
  • Many San Franciscans are unsure that people will rally to do what’s necessary to reduce global warming. Half (52%) believe humans could reduce global warming, but that it’s unclear at this point whether we will do what is needed. Relatively few are convinced that people can reduce global warming and will do so successfully (11%).
  • About half of San Franciscans (53%) say that, in the past 12 months, they have rewarded companies that are taking steps to reduce global warming by buying their products at least once, and 57% would like to do it more frequently in the next 12 months. Moreover, 45% have punished companies that are opposing steps to reduce global warming at least once by not buying their products during the past 12 months, and 52% would like to do this more frequently in the coming year.