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This post includes climate and environment headlines, data points, and key takeaways from recent public polls - including lots of new polling and message testing on international climate action to coincide with COP28.
Poll: Ahead of COP28, 2 in 3 Americans Want the U.S. to Take Ambitious Climate Action, Even if Other Countries Don’t
Voters say that the U.S. should take action on climate change, regardless of what other countries do. Three-quarters say that it’s important for the U.S. to demonstrate “significant” climate action to the international community. 77% of voters say that it’s important for the United States to be able to show other nations at COP28 that we are taking “significant” actions to address climate change. 73% of voters agree that the U.S. should work with other countries to combat climate change and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. 65% of voters agree with a statement that the United States “should take ambitious action to address climate change, even if other countries do not” and that “we should lead the world on this issue and set the example for other countries to follow suit”.
Climate change ranks among the top issues for young people in the 2024 election, and young people who prioritize climate change feel especially motivated to vote. When asked to choose their top three issue priorities, the cost of living is the dominant concern for this age group: the majority of young people (53%) cite the cost of living / inflation as a top-three issue. Climate change (26%), jobs that pay a living wage (28%), and gun violence prevention (26%) form the clear next tier of priority issues for young people after the cost of living / inflation. Importantly, the poll finds that youth who prioritize climate change are poised to play an outsized role in the 2024 election because climate-motivated youth are especially politically engaged relative to their peers.
Despite heavy polarization, the steady majority of voters want the country to prioritize climate change and most also want 100% clean energy. 60% of voters agree that the United States should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, “regardless of what other countries do”. 60% of voters support providing financial aid and technical support to developing countries that agree to limit their greenhouse gas emissions. 57% of voters support providing financial aid and technical support to developing countries to help them prepare for the impacts of global warming. 64% of voters support transitioning the U.S. economy from fossil fuels to 100% clean energy by 2050. 63% of voters support requiring electric utilities to produce 100% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2035.
The majority of Americans say that they want to live in a home where all or most appliances are electric. This recent polling, conducted by Yale and GMU in collaboration with UC-Santa Barbara and Rewiring America, affirms that the majority of Americans want to live in homes with all or mostly electric appliances. When given the choice (and asked to assume that costs and features are the same), three in five (60%) say that they want to live in a home where all major appliances or most electric appliances are powered by electricity. A more detailed breakdown shows that: 31% prefer a home in which all major appliances (stove, heating system, water heater, etc.) are powered by electricity; 29% prefer a home in which most major appliances (heating system, water heater, etc.) are powered by electricity, but which has a gas stove for cooking; 21% prefer a home in which most or all major appliances (stove, heating system, water heater, etc.) are powered by natural gas, propane, or oil; 18% don’t know or have no preference.
Voters continue to widely support the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law two years after it was signed into law. Replacing lead-contaminated pipes is the single most popular part of the legislation. Navigator finds that voters support President Biden’s signature infrastructure legislation by an overwhelming margin (65% support / 22% oppose) when it’s described as “an infrastructure plan to improve roads and bridges, expand power infrastructure, increase passenger and rail access, and improve water infrastructure” that was passed by “President Biden and a bipartisan group of lawmakers.” The infrastructure law enjoys the support of nearly nine in ten Democrats (89%), while independent voters support it by a two-to-one margin (52% support / 25% oppose) and Republican voters are split about evenly (43% support / 41% oppose). And in terms of specific policies, Navigator finds that replacing lead-contaminated pipes is the single most popular aspect of the infrastructure law. Nearly nine in ten voters (87%) support the infrastructure law’s provision to replace and upgrade water pipes that are contaminated with lead, including three in five (62%) who “strongly” support this provision.
The latest Lancet Countdown report underscores the imperative for a health-centered response in a world facing irreversible harms. Public and political engagement on health and climate change continued its upward trend across 2022, reaching the highest recorded level of engagement among government leaders and companies signed up to the UN sustainability charter, while maintaining recent higher engagement in global newspapers. Individual engagement with health and climate change remained low in 2022; of all click views that led to health-related articles, only 0.03% came from climate change-related articles, and only 0.36% of click views that led to climate change-related articles came from health-related article. Corporate sector engagement with health and climate change reached its highest recorded level In 2022, with 38% of companies referring to the health dimensions of climate change. tweets mentioning the health co-benefits of climate change action reached a record of 22% of all monthly tweets from international organizations in November 2022, in a continuously upward trend. 50% of countries mentioned the intersection of health and climate change at the UN General Debate in 2022, a 10% decrease from 2021; 95% of updated NDC documents refer to health, an increase from 73% in the first submission.
Americans’ trust in scientists is declining, but the overwhelming majority still have confidence that scientists act in the best interests of the public. About three-quarters of Americans (73%) now say that they have at least “a fair amount” of confidence in scientists to act in the best interests of the public, which represents a 14-point decline since April 2020 (87%). Democrats (86%) are 25 points more likely than Republicans (61%) to say that they have at least “a fair amount” of confidence in scientists to act in the public’s best interest, as the share of Republicans expressing at least “a fair amount” of confidence in scientists has dropped by 24 points since April 2020 while the share of Democrats expressing at least “a fair amount” of confidence in scientists has declined by five points in that timespan. Additionally, only around one-quarter of Americans (23%) now say that they have “a great deal” of confidence in scientists to act in the public’s best interests – representing a 16-point decline since April 2020 (39%).
Voters want to limit gas exports and are amenable to several arguments against new exports, including arguments about costs, climate damage, pollution, and fossil fuel dependence. By a two-to-one margin (60% support / 30% oppose), voters support the Biden administration “taking measures to limit the amount of natural gas America exports to other countries.” Young voters, who vocally opposed the Biden administration’s actions in allowing the Willow project to move forward, support the Biden administration taking measures to limit gas exports by a greater than three-to-one margin (62% support / 19% oppose among young voters aged 18-29). By a greater than two-to-one margin (62% support / 28% oppose), voters support “pausing all natural gas export projects until the proper reviews are completed.” Roughly three-quarters of Democratic voters (76% support / 16% oppose) and just over half of Republican voters (52% support / 37% oppose) support a pause on new gas export projects, as do more than three in five young voters aged 18-29 (64% support / 21% oppose).
The Fifth National Climate Assessment, released on Tuesday by the Biden administration, is unique for its focus on the present. Like previous versions, it looks at how rising temperatures will change the United States in decades to come, but it also makes clear that the rising seas, major hurricanes, and other disastrous consequences of climate change predicted in prior reports have begun to arrive. The effects are felt in every region. The report outlines steps every level of government can take to combat the climate crisis. And it takes stock of progress that has been made over the past four years. Despite this progress, climate impacts — oppressive heat domes in the Southeast that linger for weeks on end, record-breaking drought in the Southwest, bigger and more damaging hurricanes in the Atlantic basin, wildfires of unusual duration and intensity along the West Coast — are accelerating. The Grist staff, located all over the country, reviewed the assessment to provide you with the most important takeaways for your region.