According to a NY Times/CBS poll two out of three Americans support the signing of a global climate pact, but only one in five agrees to increasing taxes on electricity as a way to fight global warming; six in 10 were strongly opposed, including 49 percent of Democrats.

The striking drought in California is widely regarded by researchers as one of the effects of climate change. Image via Wikipedia.

Everyone wants change, but no one wants to change – this seems to be the summary of the poll which gauged how Americans feel about the global climate situation. Sixty-three percent of Americans (including a slight Republican majority) said that they support capping the carbon emissions from power plants, but they don’t want to pay an extra tax on energy. Sure, everyone wants things to improve… but apparently, few people are willing to pay the investment price.

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The political situation in the US is highly polarized when it comes to climate change – Republicans have strongly opposed any proposition to limit emissions from power plants, which makes it borderline impossible to pass such a resolution in the Senate – and without the US on board, any climate agreement is doomed to fail; that’s just the sad reality of things.

But this poll highlights an interesting aspect: a potential turning point in public opinion.

“If you just look over the past five or six years since Copenhagen, there’s been a shift,” said David Waskow, director of the International Climate Initiative at the World Resources Institute, referring to the largely inconclusive global summit meeting that took place in Denmark in 2009. “There’s much more awareness of issues like sea level rise, water scarcity and climate instability.”

As mentioned above, even the Republican voters seem to support capping emissions from power plants, and politicians should heed this shift of opinion, or increase of awareness – depending on how you look at it. For example, 75% of Americans said that global change is either already having catastrophic effects, or will have in the near future, including 58% of Republicans. Just 30 percent of Republicans believed that climate change is not happening or it won’t have any significant effect (I use “just”, though truth be told, that’s a highly worrying figure). Furthermore, younger people seem to be more aware and more interested by these issues, but the elder population is more engaged and more vocal – this signifies another turning point in the future. Hopefully, the Paris summit can be the much needed extra gear that finally sets the mechanism into motion.