Despite US President Donald Trump’s views on the issue, two-thirds of Americans believe climate change is either a crisis or a serious problem, according to a new poll — with a majority of people wanting immediate action on global warming and its negative consequences.
The poll, carried out by CBS, showed that more than a quarter of those surveyed called climate change a crisis, while 36% defined it as a serious problem. On the other hand, two in 10 respondents said it was a minor problem, with just 16% considering it not worrisome at all.
Up to 67% of Americans think humans can do something about climate change, but 48% say we can only slow climate change, while only 19% believe we can stop it entirely (19%).
Those who believe humans don’t contribute much to climate change are less likely to think humanity can do something about it.
Almost all Americans (91%) believe the Earth is experiencing climate change in some way, even if there is disagreement on whether the primary cause is a human activity or natural patterns. Overall, only one in ten Americans say humans don’t contribute to climate change.
The role of scientific evidence on climate change is seen differently by Americans. More than 50% of Americans think almost all climate scientists agree that human activity is the main cause of climate change, while 48% say there is still disagreement among scientists about whether human activity is the main cause (which is not the case).
The poll also showed differences between political parties. Most of the Democrats believe humans contribute a lot to climate change and that people need to act now, while Republicans are more skeptical about the degree to which human activity contributes to it, and think the issue is less urgent.
Three in four Democrats say almost all scientists agree that human activity is the main cause of climate change, while nearly the same number of Republicans think there is still disagreement among scientists. Also, Republicans have a lower level of trust in scientists.
A large majority of Democrats, 72%, think the US should take the lead on climate change, but just 23% of Republicans think that. Most Republicans say the U.S. should either take part only if other countries are doing the same or not participate at all in international efforts to prevent climate change.
Despite their differences, both Democrats and Republicans favor preserving and replenishing forests and wetlands (90%), manufacturing more fuel-efficient cars (82%), moving toward renewable sources of energy (81%) and promoting awareness and direct action by people (80%).
No matter their views on the issue, most Americans think they have a personal responsibility to do something about climate change. This is especially the case among those who think humans are a large contributor to climate change and those who think people need to act now.
Almost half of the Americans (46%) say they act daily to help the environment, even if it costs time and money. While doing things to protect the environment is important to many Americans, it may be a struggle for some. Thirty-seven percent say it’s important they do things to protect the environment but say they don’t have the time or money to do them right now.
Large numbers of Americans say they are willing to do a number of specific things in order to help the environment, such as recycling more (87%), use energy-efficient light bulbs (86%), give up plastic bags at stores (77%), and give up plastic straws (70%). Most people say they are willing to implement all of these personal changes with the exception of giving up meat.
There are partisan divides here too. Democrats — who see climate change as a more pressing issue — are more likely than either Republicans or independents to feel they have a personal responsibility to help and to do something, even if it costs time and money.
The role of the US
Across the United States, communities are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. Rising seas, increased droughts, more intense heatwaves, and wildfires, and stronger storms threaten American cities and towns and their economies.
US net emissions declined 12% from 2005 to 2017 due to a range of market- and policy-related factors. Electric power sector emissions fell 27% as a result of a shift from coal to natural gas, increased use of renewable energy, and a leveling of electricity demand.
On June 1, 2017, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. The earliest possible effective withdrawal date by the US cannot be before November 4, 2020, four years after the Agreement came into effect in the United States and one day after the 2020 U.S. presidential election — which raises some intriguing possibilities.
The Trump Administration has continued with its campaign to systematically walk back US federal climate policy. It has put forward a weak replacement for the Clean Power Plan, proposed to freeze vehicle efficiency standards after 2020, and will not enforce regulations to limit highly potent HFC emissions. Furthermore, the administration has instructed government agencies to change their climate science methodology.