A full 67 percent of Americans support federal regulations to restrict carbon emissions from the nation’s power plants — even if it raises their electrical bills.
A survey released Wednesday by Yale’s Project on Climate Change Communication asked 1,275 adult voters if they would support “strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants to reduce global warming and improve public health,” even if “the cost of electricity to consumers and companies would likely increase.” Twenty-three percent responded they would “strongly” support the policy, and 44 percent said they would “somewhat” support it.
This is effectively what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did back in June with the release of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which gives each state a certain amount of carbon emissions to cut from its power sector by 2020, and a further goal in 2030. The overall goal is to cut carbon emissions from U.S. power plants 30 percent below their 2005 levels by 2030.
Now, surveying mass opinion is an admittedly tricky business: another poll released this week by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News found 59 percent support for setting limits on carbon emissions — but that support fell to 47 percent, while opposition increased to 49 percent, if the move would increase electricity prices. That said, previous polling has also found majority support for cutting emissions even in the face of possible economic costs.
EPA’s rule was actually designed to offer states as many options as possible for reducing their emissions, so that they could land on the most effective and least-costly approach for their circumstances. Between that, and the drop in price for renewable power, it’s unlikely the EPA rule will noticeably raise national electricity prices — though certain regions could see a larger increase.
The survey also asked voters about a raft of other policies aimed at either climate adaptation or emission reductions. Seventy-five percent supported tax rebates for the purchase of solar power or fuel-efficient vehicles, for instance, and 62 percent supported requiring electrical utilities to get at least 20 percent of their power from green sources — a policy generally known as a “renewable portfolio standard.”
Meanwhile, 66 percent of the respondents said they believe global warming is happening, though only 50 percent thought it was “mostly caused by human activities.” Thirty-two percent attributed global warming mostly to “natural changes in the environment.”
Interestingly — and perhaps worrisome for climate hawks — that widespread conviction that climate change is happening and is driven by humans sits alongside a finding that only one in ten Americans is aware that over 90 percent of climate scientists have concluded human activities play a key role in climate change. Fifty-five percent of respondents described themselves as “somewhat worried” about climate change, while only 11 percent described themselves as “very worried.”