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U.S. Opinion on the Environment

November 19, 2009
This publication is now archived.

Perception of Climate Change as a Problem or Threat

Most Americans say that global warming is a problem or a threat. Only small minorities say it is not a problem. Concern about climate change, while increasing for some years, may be leveling out. Large majorities believe that human activity plays a role in climate change. Download full chapter (PDF).

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Readiness to Take Action

A large majority of Americans support taking action to address the problem of climate change. More often than not majorities favor taking major steps, urgently. A modest majority thinks that the U.S. government should do more than it is currently doing to address climate change. Americans tend to underestimate how ready other Americans are to support taking action, however. There is strong support for participation in an international treaty to limit climate change. Most Americans believe that it will be necessary for people to change their lifestyle in order to reduce their production of climate-changing gasses. Readiness to take action is highly related to levels of information regarding climate change and the perception that there is scientific consensus on the reality of climate change. Download full chapter (PDF).

Changing Energy Usage

To motivate changes in energy usage, most Americans believe that it will be necessary to increase the cost of energy that causes climate change. The idea of raising taxes on such forms of energy meets with mixed responses. But if the revenues of such a tax are earmarked to address the problem of climate change or are offset with tax reductions, support becomes much higher. Also, a large majority of Americans say that in order to address climate change they would be willing to pay more for renewable energy. Download full chapter (PDF).

Reducing Reliance on Oil and Coal

To reduce reliance on oil and coal, a large majority of Americans favor creating tax incentives to encourage alternative energy sources, requiring automakers to increase fuel efficiency, and building new nuclear power plants. Download full chapter (PDF).

Role of Developing Countries

A majority of Americans—along with most people in developing and developed countries alike—think that developing countries have a responsibility to limit their greenhouse-gas emissions in an effort to deal with climate change. There is also a consensus that developed countries should provide aid as part of a deal to help developing countries commit to limiting their emissions. If developing countries refuse to limit their emissions, most Americans think the United States should nonetheless proceed to limit its own emissions. Download full chapter (PDF).

Multilateral Efforts to Address Climate Change

Americans say that multilateral cooperation on climate change is very important, but give the United States a mediocre rating in advancing this objective. A large majority believes there should be a new international institution to monitor compliance with climate treaty obligations. Download full chapter (PDF).

Assessments of Leading Country’s Role in Addressing Problem

A majority of Americans disapprove of how the United States has handled the problem of climate change. Most Americans regarded China as the worst offender in harming the global environment, while most other nations blame the United States. Americans retain a large amount of trust in their own country to protect the environment, while Germany has the best ratings globally. Download full chapter (PDF).

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