Almost 80% of US citizens believe climate change is man-made

Stanford University reports majority in every state polled wants limits on greenhouse gas emissions

(US Forest Service)

(US Forest Service)

By Nilima Choudhury

Almost three quarters of Americans believe climate change has been caused by human activities, reveals new research.

A majority in every state polled wants limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Around 92% of Rhode Island’s citizens want action, while only 65% of participants from Utah support efforts to cut carbon.

The 21 surveys conducted by Stanford University were primarily done between 2006 and 2013 using data from 19,751 respondents. Four states had insufficient data: Alaska, Hawaii, North Dakota and Wyoming.

“Our research has shown remarkably consistency of Americans’ opinions on this issue over the last 15 years,” said Jon Krosnick, senior fellow with the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

“I have often heard legislators in Washington express the belief that there is considerable variation in opinions about global warming across parts of the country, and that most of the people living in their state or district are sceptical about global warming.”

In only one state did a clear majority endorse giving government tax breaks to encourage building of more nuclear plants: South Carolina (64%).

Majorities also favoured tax breaks to encourage renewable energy (82%) and said governments should do more to mitigate the effects of climate change (66%).

Over 66% of participants said the government should take action on global warming despite the actions from other countries.

(Stanford University)

Percentage of Americans who believe global warming will pose a serious problem for the US. (Stanford University)

In October the US Treasury Department largely declared an end to the country’s support for new coal-fired power plants around the world meaning the Obama administration will no longer contribute to coal projects financed by the World Bank and other international development banks.

The country has also seen an increase in the generation of gas, which has been attributed to emissions in the US falling by 3.8% from 2011 to 2012.

Oregon, Washington and California last month agreed with the Canadian province of British Columbia to align carbon-cutting policies in the coastal region, which together is equivalent to the world’s fifth-largest economy.

Engagement with global warming issues was also consistent across states.

Despite the positive outcome of the survey, only an average of 9% of those questioned said green policies would influence who they voted for even though between 50 and 70% of people said they were highly knowledgeable about the issue.

The lowest self-reported knowledge levels were observed in Alabama (38%) and West Virginia (29%).

Krosnick said his research shows that politicians may assume that people in “red” and “blue” states have very different ideologies regarding climate change, but in fact the results change very little between states.

“Our findings suggest that the balance of communications from constituents to elected representatives may have created a misimpression of the public’s opinions on the issue.”

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