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Public opinion snapshot: Public backs key elements of global warming bill

By Climate Guest Contributor  

"Public opinion snapshot: Public backs key elements of global warming bill"

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Graph: Do you think the federal government should regulate greenhouse gas emissions?

Ruy Teixeira, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, is a leading expert on public opinion analysis. This post was first published here.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act has a long way to go until it clears Congress and lands on President Barack Obama’s desk. And there’s no question that the climate change legislation under consideration is complicated and that the public’s understanding of the bill’s details is limited. But it’s worth noting that the public is supportive of the broad goal and approach of this legislation.

For example, 75 percent of respondents in a mid-June ABC News/Washington Post poll said the federal government should “regulate the release of greenhouse gases from sources like power plants, cars, and factories in an effort to reduce global warming.” Just 21 percent disagreed. Moreover, when those who agreed that the federal government should regulate greenhouse gases were asked if they would still support this if it raised the price of the things they buy, 80 percent of that group still said yes.

Graph: Would you still want regulation if it increases prices?

The public also expressed majority support (52-42) for a “cap-and-trade” approach to greenhouse gas regulation in the same poll. This is despite the complicated nature of the proposal, which may confuse some respondents.

Graph: Would you support cap and trade?

And the public believes it is necessary to move ahead on the climate change bill, even if the rest of the world is not moving at the same time. Almost three-fifths (59 percent) said the United States should take action on global warming even if other countries such as China and India are doing less to address the issue, compared to 38 percent who thought either we should take action only if these countries take equally aggressive action (20 percent) or we should do nothing (18 percent).

Graph: Should the United States address global warming even if other countries do not?

The message seems clear: The public is open to substantial action to tackle the global warming problem. And with some timely congressional action, they just might get that.

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13 Responses to Public opinion snapshot: Public backs key elements of global warming bill

  1. paulm says:

    http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/07/challenge-to-climate-change-skeptics.html

    A Challenge to Climate Change Skeptics
    by Nate Silver @ 4:16 PM
    Bookmark and Share Share This Content

    John Hinderaker at the popular conservative blog PowerLine reports that it’s been cold, cold, cold in his home town of Minneapolis, Minnesota, going to far as to compare it with “The Year Without a Summer”, 1816, when global temperatures were abnormally low as a result of the eruption of Mount Tambora:

    I don’t think things are quite so bad this year, but if something doesn’t change pretty soon 2009 may go down in history, in some parts of the U.S. at least, as another year with barely any summer. Here in Minnesota and across the Midwest, temperatures are abnormally cold. I don’t know whether the phenomenon is world-wide–data that will answer this question have probably not been assembled, and may not be honestly reported–but the current low level of solar activity suggests that the cooling trend could indeed be universal.

    Indeed, it’s been pretty cool in Minneapolis for the past couple of days; the temperature hasn’t hit 70 since midday Thursday. But has it been an unusually cool summer? No, not really. Since summer began on June 21st, high temperatures there have been above average 15 times and below average 13 times. The average high temperature there since summer began this year has been 82.4 degrees. The average historic high temperature over the same period is … 82.4 degrees. It’s been a completely typical summer in Minneapolis, although with one rather hot period in late June and one rather cool one now. (Note: actual high temperatures can be found here and historical averages can be found here.)

    Selective memory is a powerful thing. I’m not particularly certain when pointing out the fact that it might be cool or rainy in your hometown one afternoon became subject for worthwhile blog material, but you have started to see this all the time on certain conservative blogs, probably led by the example of Matt Drudge.

    Therefore, because I’d like to see more accountability on all sides of this debate and because I’m tired of people who don’t understand statistics and because I’d like to make some money, I issue the following challenge.

    You are eligible for this challenge if:

    1. You live in the United States and provide me with your home address and telephone number (I will provide you with mine) and,
    2. You are a regular (at least once weekly) contributor to a political, economics or science blog with an Alexa traffic global ranking of 50,000 or lower.

    [JR: The latter requirement is tough. CP doesn't make it, for instance.]

    The reason for the latter requirement is because I want to be able to shame/humiliate you if you back out of the challenge or refuse to pay, as I’d assume you’d do the same with me.

    The rules of the challenge are as follows:

    1. For each day that the high temperature in your hometown is at least 1 degree Fahrenheit above average, as listed by Weather Underground, you owe me $25. For each day that it is at least 1 degree Fahrenheit below average, I owe you $25.
    2. The challenge proceeds in monthly intervals, with the first month being August. At the end of each month, we’ll tally up the winning and losing days and the loser writes the winner a check for the balance.
    3. The challenge automatically rolls over to the next month until/unless: (i) one party informs the other by the 20th of the previous month that he would like to discontinue the challenge (that is, if you want to discontinue the challenge for September, you’d have to tell me this by August 20th), or (ii) the losing party has failed to pay the winning party in a timely fashion, in which case the challenge may be canceled at the sole discretion of the winning party.

    Any takers? You can reach me by clicking the ‘Contact’ button at the top of the page.

    EDIT: No takers yet. Eligibility will remain open through Monday (the 20th). Limit three contestants within any one 100-mile geographic radius.

    And sorry for all the typos, etc. Been a long week.

  2. BBHY says:

    One of my two Senators is Ben Cardin. From his website:

    “Misinformation: The cap and trade bill will raise energy costs for the average American household by $3,000 dollars a year.

    Reality: The cap and trade program outlined in the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 will place a limit on the volume of greenhouse gas pollution a company can produce a year, while allowing companies to buy “pollution credits” from companies that are under the limit. This proven, cost-effective system will create market incentives for a cleaner, more energy efficient America. A recent study by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that cutting greenhouse gas pollution in this way will cost the average American household less than 50 cents a day. The legislation also contains provisions to help prevent economic disruptions and to prevent economic hardships on Middle-class Americans. ”

    Nice to see he gets it. We need to work harder on some of those other Senators who don’t.

  3. Gail says:

    paulm, I have my own challenge, but no one has yet taken me up on it.

    Of course, it is somewhat limited, geographically.

    But here it is:

    I promise to buy anyone lunch, and they can choose any spot within 50 miles of my home in New Jersey where there are trees, when I will meet them and they will agree that I can conclusively demonstrate that climate change is destroying the ecosystem.

    Oh and I will agree to any sort of eat your hat scenario if I lose.

    Any takers with cameras?

  4. MarkB says:

    The results of these polls should be on the desks of every U.S. Senator. They should not be persuaded by a small minority of loud zealots calling them every day to proclaim that reducing emissions will bring an end to the U.S. economy. Such is not representative of the U.S. population.

  5. David B. Benson says:

    Scietific American (august issue) has a short article mentioning, in order, McIntyre (and his blog), Watts (and his blog) and Mareno (and his blog) and quoting numbers from oldeer surveys to the effect that the number of Americans who “believe” in AGW has gone down from 47% to 39%.

    The mojor point of David Appell op-ed piece wass that this is maybe due to various (minor) data errors.

    All-in-all, I found this quite disappointing. The least he could have done was ask Joe Romm (and mention this blog) for a quotable sentence.

  6. caerbannog says:


    John Hinderaker at the popular conservative blog PowerLine reports that it’s been cold, cold, cold in his home town of Minneapolis, Minnesota, going to far as to compare it with “The Year Without a Summer”, 1816, when global temperatures were abnormally low as a result of the eruption of Mount Tambora:

    To put hinderaker’s blatherings in perspective, take a look at NASA’s global temperature “snapshot” for June 2009: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/gistemp/do_nmap.py?year_last=2009&month_last=06&sat=4&sst=1&type=anoms&mean_gen=06&year1=2009&year2=2009&base1=1951&base2=1980&radius=1200&pol=reg

    Note that one of the few “cool spots” on the planet for June 2009 happens to cover a good part of Minnesota! Hinderaker, like most of his ilk, apparently doesn’t understand the meaning of “global” in the term “global warming”.

  7. Rick Covert says:

    Gail,

    What part of Jersey do you hail from? I’m originally from Holmdel in Monmouth county.

    I’ve been following the weather there and its seems to have been unusually cool there.

    It’s been very hot here in Houston with about 39 above 90º days here and 11 above 100º days. We’re just on the edge of the exceptional drought area but we just got a torrential downpour all over the Houston area yesterday for the first time in 2½ months. We have the promise of more rain tonight through Wednesday and then the high pressure system that has been drying us out returns.

  8. Ken says:

    Gail said:

    “I promise to buy anyone lunch, and they can choose any spot within 50 miles of my home in New Jersey where there are trees, when I will meet them and they will agree that I can conclusively demonstrate that climate change is destroying the ecosystem.”

    I know that New Jersey is called the Garden State, but I always thought that was kind of an inside joke. Having lived in central New Jersey for 15 years, I’d say it would be impossible to prove exactly what has (already) destroyed the ecosystem. How about too many freeways, too many farms converted to fields of McMansions, too many smoke stack industries, too many superfund sites, too many people, too many jets flying overhead, too many pharmaceuticals flushed down the toilets, too much of nearly everything associated with modern civilization.

    New Jersey would be a lost cause even if the planet had not warmed at all. I very much doubt you can extract the impact of global warming from all the other bad things that are going on there.

  9. Bill Woods says:

    Moreover, when those who agreed that the federal government should regulate greenhouse gases were asked if they would still support this if it raised the price of the things they buy, 80 percent of that group still said yes.

    “Up to a point, Lord Copper.”

    A poll for The Economist by YouGov (see chart) found that 62% of Americans want carbon curbs, but only 30% would pay even $175 a year for them, … http://www.economist.com/world/unitedstates/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13952934

    [What happened to Preview; was it lost in the site redesign?]

  10. MarkB says:

    Bill Woods,

    It would be interesting to see income levels of those who answered yes/no on that survey. The survey itself is based on a somewhat false premise, since the costs vary between income groups.

    Of 5 income levels, the CBO (in an analysis that doesn’t capture all the benefits) determined that the lowest household income level will come out $40 ahead. The 2nd lowest quintile pays $40. The middle level pays $235. 2nd highest pays $340. Top level pays $245.

    http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/103xx/doc10327/06-19-CapAndTradeCosts.pdf

    So if those polled new exactly what it would cost them based on their income (perhaps the question asked varies after they input their household income level), I would bet the support would increase substantially. Most of the bottom quintile would gladly take the $40, giving 20% right off the bat. Higher income folks might be willing to tolerate paying a bit more than low income folks.

  11. Peter Wood says:

    If the Republicans continue to oppose action on climate change, then they would have to be completely insane!

  12. Gail says:

    Ken, you need to get out more! NJ has 17% of its land in agriculture which is a pretty high figure.

    http://www.stuffaboutstates.com/new.jersey/agriculture.htm

    from the Dean of Public Policy at Rugers:

    “New Jersey ranks number one among the 50 states in density. In other words, we are the densest state in America. In fact, we are the only state with more than 1000 people per square mile. Our current density is 1,140 people per square mile. To put that in perspective, the density of Japan is 825 people per square mile, while the density of India is 875 people per square mile. This certainly demonstrates our demographic resiliency. Somehow we are able to live together and contribute together despite being packed in very tight.

    Finally, despite this density, a higher proportion of New Jersey is covered by forest than states like California and Alaska. In fact we have more horses per capita than in any other state in the nation. Or, from a horse’s perspective, there are fewer humans per horse than in any other state. This demonstrates our unique environment and quality of life – a key advantage in a knowledge-driven economy.”

    The reason I think climate change is killing the trees is that the decline is happening relatively suddenly – within the last year – and is affecting every species and age.

    If it was pollution or pests or disease (which certainly exist) it wouldn’t be such a rapid and recent massive event. In fact, air pollution is better now than 20 years ago.

    I don’t pretend to know what exact biological mechanism is at work. But something near universal is happening. Increasing temperatures (which we know has already occurred) is effectively a drought, since water evaporates more quickly, and certainly the trees and shrubs exhibit the symptoms of drought.

    On the other hand, I have observed shrubs and saplings in nurseries, which presumably are watered or irrigated, and they too have wilted or brown leaves, which makes me wonder if it is due a changed atmosphere, or increased ozone, or too much ultraviolet radiation. That is a scarier prospect because it could affect annual agricultural crops.

    Lest anyone think this is of peripheral concern, consider all the products we humans derive from trees, not the least of which is shade, and also the service that forests provide as a carbon sink.

  13. JWilli says:

    I definitely agree with the 59% of people who said that America should take action even if others aren’t moving to action. I wish the percentage number was higher, though. Somebody has to be the one to set the trend (leaders). A lot of times people sit around and wait until they see what others are doing before they make a decision to move on their own (followers). Those that follow, sometimes, look from to outside and wait to see if those that lead will fail or succeed. If no one ever tries, you can’t expect a great change to happen. I am in high hopes that those who oppose the action on climate change will deeply reconsider. It’s a great proposal and a great start to a better economy!!!!!!!