Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Growing strength—and divide—in climate opinion

Environmental Science & Technology: Although recent polls show that a majority of Americans are willing to tackle climate change, the political divide over this issue is deepening. Democrats support climate action overwhelmingly, but the number of Republicans who believe that the earth is warming and who rank global warming as a top policy priority has dropped compared with last year. Republicans and Democrats tend to use information about climate change to reinforce different beliefs, research shows….

However, there is some good news for climate action supporters. A new survey of U.S. electricity consumers shows that Americans seem ready to open their wallets—at least a crack—to slow warming. The study, released in May by the accounting and consulting firm Deloitte LLP, found that 62% of 1000 Americans surveyed say they would pay higher electricity rates to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in their state. They would accept only modest increases, however; although 62% say they would pay 5% more, only 5% would accept an increase greater than 15%.

Overall, 74% of consumers expressed concerns about global warming, says Branko Terzic, Deloitte's energy and resources regulatory policy director. When asked about specific technologies, more than 60% supported "clean coal" and nearly 60% supported nuclear power. Deloitte did not survey enough people to break down the results by political party, Terzic says, but the overall findings can help regulators gauge public sentiment.

In a 2007 survey conducted with New Scientist magazine, social scientist Jon Krosnick of Stanford University and colleagues described to 1500 Americans several electricity and gasoline policies that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions. "People were more keen on electricity emission reduction policies than gasoline policies across the board, and people preferred mandated standards to a cap-and-trade system," notes Krosnick's colleague, research psychologist Ariel Malka. Raising taxes was the least popular option, and support dropped as costs rose…

Waving American flag shot by "Scrumshus," who has generously released it into the public domain. Thank you, Scrumshus

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