Q: What do public support for clean energy and global temperatures have in common?

A: They both keep going up despite the anti-science, pro-polluter echo chamber.

This is a guest post by Daniel J. Weiss, Senior Fellow at American Progress.

Climate progress auteur Dr. Joseph Romm recently noted the Earth is stuck in a “Groundhog Decade”¦where it’s always the hottest decade on record.”  Temperature data from NOAA demonstrates that the ’00’s were warmer than the ’90’s, which were warmer than the ’80’s, and so on.  The data points in one direction: the Earth continues to warm.

Analogously, public opinion data on global warming also points in one direction:  Americans support investments in clean energy, and want action to reduce global warming pollution.  Poll after poll finds majorities support these measures, despite the worst economy in eighty years, and $100 million and growing of big oil and coal advocacy to defeat clean energy and global warming legislation.

Two just-released polls reiterate public support for clean energy and global warming pollution reductions.   One is a nationwide poll by Yale University and George Mason University.  The other is a poll of Massachusetts voters taken immediately after Republican Scott Brown was elected to the U.S. Senate to replace the late Democrat Edward Kennedy.  This poll found that a majority Brown voters support reductions in global warming pollution.

Climate Change in the American Mind,” is a survey by the Yale Project on Climate Change and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.  They surveyed 1,001 adults from December 24, 2009 to January 3, 2010.  The margin of error is +/- 3 percent.

When asked whether they “support or oppose regulation carbon dioxide”¦as pollutant,” 73 percent said yes, with only 27 percent opposed, including 61 percent of Republicans.  This was more than the 67 percent who supported “expanded offshore drilling” or the 49 who wanted to “build more nuclear power plants.”  And strong support outpolled strong opposition by 3-2.   These overall results are similar to a December 2009 Washington Post-ABC News poll.

ALL Sup. % ALLOpp.  % Dem Sup % Dem Opp. % Indep. Sup % Indep. Opp. % Rep Sup % Rep Opp. %
“Support or oppose regulating carbon dioxide”¦as a pollutant? 73 27 92 9 66 34 61 39
“Cap and trade system”¦support or oppose.” 58 42 78 22 56 44 43 57
“Support or oppose requiring electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity” from renewables “even if it cost the average household an extra $100 a year” 57 43 69 31 56 44 44 56
“Support or oppose building more nuclear power plants” 50 50 44 56 52 49 57 43
Support or oppose “building a nuclear power plant in your local area” 43 58 36 65 40 51 42 58
ALL More Jobs % ALL


Jobs %


More Jobs %


Jobs %



Jobs %

Ind Cost

Jobs %


More Jobs %





“Protecting the environment improves economic growth and provides new jobs” vs. “Reduces economic growth and costs jobs.” 68 33 86 14 64 36 55 46
ALL Env % ALL Econ % Dem Env. % DemEcon% Ind

Env. %

Ind Econ% Rep

Env. %



“Protect the environment even if it reduces economic growth” vs. “Economic growth even it leads to environmental problems” 62 38 77 23 59 41 45 55

The poll found that respondents support a “cap and trade” system by 58 percent to 42 percent.  This includes the support of 43 percent of Republicans.  The overall results are nearly identical to the results of a poll of battleground states conducted by President Obama’s 2008 pollster Joel Benenson.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents want the United States to “reduce its greenhouse gas emissions”¦.regardless of what other countries do.”  This is a strong result given that the mainstream media unfairly trashed the Copenhagen Accord one week before the survey was taken.

There is much more support for renewable electricity than nuclear power, which equally divided respondents.  And of course, support for “building a nuclear power plant in your local area” was overwhelmingly opposed even by Republicans.

This skepticism about nuclear power contrasts with the Obama Administration’s proposals to triple nuclear power loan guarantees in 2011.  If half the projects default on these loans (the default rate identified by the Congressional Budget Office in 2003), there could be some very unhappy taxpayers.

Like psychics reading tea leaves, there have been many guesses about the views of the Massachusetts voters who supported Scott Brown in his upset special election victory.  Some senators (subscription required) – mostly those already opposed to global warming legislation – claimed that Brown’s victory was a vote against bipartisan, comprehensive clean energy legislation.   In fact, a majority of Brown’s voters support global warming legislation.

Joel Benenson, President Obama’s pollster in 2008, conducted a poll of 500 Massachusetts special election voters from January 25-27, a week after the election. Respondents were asked whether they supported a bill “that limits pollution and greenhouse emissions through what’s been called a ‘Cap and trade’ plan and also invests in clean, renewable energy sources in America.”

  • 67% of voters supported legislation; only 21% opposed
  • Independents supported legislation by 61%-26%
  • A plurality of Republicans supported legislation by 47%-38%
  • Half of Brown voters supported legislation by 50%-36%

Respondents were asked whether Brown should “support this bipartisan energy bill so we stop spending a billion dollars a day on foreign oil” or “should stand with Republicans in Congress to block the Democrats’ agenda of massive liberal tax and spend programs like this $660 billion cap and trade bill.”

  • 61% of all voters wanted Brown to support a bipartisan energy bill, while only 25% urged that he block it.
  • They Among Brown voters, 44% wanted him to support the bill, while 41% urged obstruction.

Benenson found that “more than any other top priority, voters want their recently elected Senator to focus on ‘making America more energy independent.’ ”

Some politicians shy away from casting tough votes for fear of a negative public reaction.  Contrary to many pundits, and despite an unprecedented scare campaign by big oil, opinion polls should strong public support for global warming legislation that should elicit a positive public reaction.   The Yale-GMU and Massachusetts polls demonstrate yet again that there is strong public support for comprehensive, bipartisan clean energy and global warming legislation.  Senators must ignore big oil to pass legislation that creates jobs, make America more energy independent, enhances national security, cuts pollution, and increases our economic competitiveness.

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19 Responses to Q: What do public support for clean energy and global temperatures have in common?

  1. Dan B says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I moved to a black and asian-american neighborhood half a year ago. My new neighbors don’t understand insulation and sealing leaks in their homes but they’ve all gotten excited as I’ve started the process on my new home. They see the economic growth model – creates jobs, reduces utility bills.

    One neighbor, a long time union crew leader, laid off from his job refitting cruise ships (supervised a crew of 300 one year) told me yesterday he’s using ‘Green’ in the name of his new business.

    People get it. They get that jobs will be in their communities. They get that you can’t retrofit a house overseas. They get that clean energy is the 21st Century growth engine.

    When you lead with solutions people who are skeptics come on board. When you lead with data people become confused and anxious. I found that out the easy way, by skipping the data. Now I’ve got dozens of friends and neighbors on board.

    Gardeners who’ve become increasingly anxious about the weird weather, business leaders who are looking for a way to keep their companies afloat, and contractors whose jobs have dried up are all enthused at the little ripples my optimism and vision has created.

    GOP get on board or sink under the waves…

  2. Bill Waterhouse says:

    off topic, but Olberman and Maddow on MSNBC both led with climate change tonight – Maddow was especially good with Bill Nye.

  3. Tim Kelly says:


    ABC News did some damage to the green push in the stimulus last night by reporting that 8 out of every 10 dollars of the stimulus package that was devoted to wind energy are going to China. However, they left out the part about how the “Buy American” provisions that the bill started out with were met with protest from our own business community, our trading partners and the free traders in Congress. I’m glad to see the above post. What is your take on ABC and last night’s piece?

    I at least check your headlines every day. Keep it up!

    [JR: I’m on it!]

  4. Tim says:

    So much for the meme about declining support for cap & trade. Agree totally with Dan B., though: people’s eyes glaze over when confronted with lots of data. We gotta tell the story with real world examples and show how clean energy & energy efficiency create jobs, protect the environment, boost economic competitiveness, and enhance national security. What’s not to like about all THAT??

  5. REV Wright says:

    “Global Warmimg”: Total BS. Gosta keep those gubment grants comin to the “elites”. [How’s the “warming” today on the East Coast, commie libs?]

  6. Jeff Huggins says:

    Generating Progress, Step 1: The “Bill” Strategy

    Tonight I saw Bill Nye The Science Guy on MSNBC, and he was great! He said that it shakes him up when people deny global warming science, and he also said that it’s “unpatriotic”. And he’s right.

    Bravo, Bill.

    So that gave me an idea: I call it the “Bill” strategy. Here’s how it works …

    Society should replace Bill O’Reilly, on Fox (if I mispelled the name, too bad) with Bill The Science Guy.

    And, society should replace Bill Keller, of The New York Times, with Bill McKibben.

    (My working assumption here is that McKibben may be better at running a reformed, science-savvy, and responsible NY Times than Nye — and also replace the ExxonMobil ads with big 350 reminders — while Bill Nye Science Guy is likely to have a slightly better TV presence that McKibben, perhaps? Either way could probably work.)

    If society can just wisely and gently accomplish these Bill-swaps, we’ll start to make some progress.

    Any better ideas?

    Be Well,


  7. Dan B says:


    Thanks for the pat on the back. Many thanks!


    Bill Nye’s cousin showed up in my backyard the other day. He was just as persuasive as his cousin – an arborist dumping chippings on a Public Garden / P-Patch.

    My “hood” is 10% white. They love this empowered white guy. He eats well when the harvest is in.


  8. Dan B says:

    What you won’t find in the comments on this post are the Tea-Baggers, the Exxon Mobils, the Heartland Institute, the so-called Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) complete sham – they’d die in an instant without Exxon Mobil funding – check them out on that gang-plank.

    A high tide raises all boats. I love that.

    A global warming tidal rush might raise a few yachts, but their children won’t last long on the track their parents have adopted.

    They think they’re combating an immoral commie-science conspiracy. Instead they’ll wake up to discover the NASDAQ and China.Inq have eaten their piggy bank.

    Just sayin – wake up to the opportunities…. and the payback when you’re in number one moral position. (Hint for managers who don’t get it: People follow prophetic and profound moral leaders.)

  9. Dan B says:

    I retract my statement at 9. The REV Wrights are saying I’m a Commie- Librul who supports Gubment Grants, but only to Librul Commie Elites.

    Our children’s lives are at stake. More scientists say global warming caused by coal and oil pollution are destroying the climate that produces rain in the breadbasket and snow that fills reservoirs in the west than doubt these findings by 100 to one.

    Children’s lives are at stake – not just freedom and liberty: Lives.

    What if your understanding of science put your children’s lives at stake?
    Please consider this because there are opportunities to create a 21st Century energy economy that does not rely upon Saudi Arabia’s oil fields. Instead it could put solar panels on the roofs of half of America, and give the big finger to the country that won’t let women drive.

    Would American Energy Security be a worthwhile goal?

    Does America stop innovating because fossil fuels were cheaper in the 20th Century and much more expensive in the 21st?

    Go to the pump. Tell us the price. Tell us how many cars Tata and China Inc. will sell.

    Describe the sucking sound in Saudi Arabia when these cars are on the road.

    I’m betting on fantastic electric cars and trains. So are the major Capital Investors.

  10. fj2 says:

    When all else fails reason prevails.

    Great report from #1. Dan B. This type of stuff will go viral.

    The President should drive up the media exposure.

  11. fj2 says:

    The President should set up a consortium of public-private agencies to coordinate military-style command and control addressing climate change: Smithsonian, DOE, EPA, Department of Commerce, Bloomberg, DARPA, NOAA, Goddard, The Academy, Academy of Sciences, Department of Transportation, Amory Lovins and Rocky Mountain Institute, US Mayors, etc.

  12. fj2 says:

    Climate Fight Is Heating Up in Deep Freeze

    The extreme weather, Mr. Inhofe said by e-mail, reinforced doubts about scientists’ conclusion that global warming was “unequivocal” and most likely caused by human activity.

    Nonsense, responded Joseph Romm, a climate-change expert and former Energy Department official who writes about climate issues at the liberal Center for American Progress.

  13. fj2 says:

    re: #10 fj2

    Created in 1990, the US Global Change Research Program should be brought front-and-center with sufficient funds to address the crisis at the necessary scale.

    Participating Departments and Agencies

  14. fj2 says:

    The US Global Change Research Program should have a session with Congress with world scientists and deniers. Deniers should be subpoenaed if they do want to testify.

  15. BillD says:

    Let’s hope that Senator Brown has some interest in re-election and in responding to his electorate. Massachusetts is still a progressive state. Overall, I think that Brown’s election may have been a good wake-up for the Democrats and that the Republicans may be reading it too optimistically

  16. George says:

    fj2, why the Rocky Mountain Institute?

  17. Mim says:

    It’s good to see a more positive article. I hope we see more of them in the media, and keep shifting the discussion to what people and governments can do.

    I’ve read that positive messages are stronger than negative messages, which makes sense. What can one do with gloom and doom? It’s much better to be guided into action people can take – by voting, listening, talking or by changing your own surroundings to use up less energy and at the same time live comfortably (and at less cost).

  18. fj2 says:

    15. George “Why the Rocky Mountain Institute”

    RMI seems to have a lot of positive very practical solution along with Amory Lovins and has been doing this since the 70s. A perfect record is not a requirement.

    You might want to refer to his book “Natural Capital.”