July 30th, 2020 by Carolyn Fortuna
The US federal government should be doing a whole lot more to reduce the impacts of climate change. Those are the findings from a just-released national survey by Pew Research Center. And it’s not just Democrats who are calling foul — over half of Republicans as well say the US government should do more about climate. Both these constituent groups say they would support a range of initiatives to reduce the impacts of climate change.
Among the actions positively favored by both groups are:
- large-scale tree planting efforts
- tax credits for businesses that capture carbon emissions
- tougher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles
The study, conducted April 29 to May 5 among 10,957 US adults using the Center’s online American Trends Panel, finds a majority of US adults want the government to play a larger role in addressing climate change. About 2/3 — 65% — say the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change.
If you think that the COVID-19 pandemic has dampened concern levels about the need for climate action, think again. The Center analysis finds 60% of respondents view climate change as a major threat to the well-being of the US. This is as high a share as in any Pew Research Center survey going back to 2009.
Public dissatisfaction with government environmental action reaches into other areas, too, such as protecting air and water quality and wildlife.
Here are some of the percentages of US public concern over climate and the environment:
- 79% say the priority for the country’s energy supply should be developing alternative sources of energy, such as wind and solar (solar-sourced electricity generation grew by 32% in 2020 over 2019, and wind-sourced electricity generation grew 20% same year over year, according to CleanTechnica research).
- 90% favor planting about a trillion trees around the world to absorb carbon emissions in the atmosphere (we’ve investigated planting trees here at CleanTechnica, with the conclusion that that we aren’t going to get anywhere near the necessary trillion trees planted in anywhere near enough time to offset the climate crisis).
- 84% support providing a business tax credit for carbon capture technology that can store carbon emissions before they enter the atmosphere (a 5-part series here at CleanTechnica asked whether the efforts devoted to carbon capture would have been more efficacious if directed to renewable energy).
- 20% give priority to expanding the production of oil, coal and natural gas (this small percentage clearly hasn’t read our CleanTechnica update from Bill McKibben about the demise of Big Oil influence).
- 58% says government regulations will be necessary to encourage businesses and individuals to rely more on renewable energy (our CleanTechnica readers spoke out earlier this year about Trump administration environmental deregulation and effects, calling upon businesses and individuals to rise up in protest).
- 39% think the private marketplace will ensure this change in habits (here at CleanTechnica, we’ve called upon investors to calculate the costs of climate risks in their stock holdings).
How Does US Party Affiliation Affect Attitudes about Federal Climate Action?
It’s not just Democrats that say the government needs to step up and engage in more climate action. Here are the percentages from what the Center terms “Republican leaners.”
- 72% say human activity is contributing a great deal to climate change.
- 83% say it is impacting their own local community.
- 64% back tougher emission standards for power plants.
- 89% say that the government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change.
Partisanship does, however, affect the way that individuals of opposing US parties see the local impact of climate change.
- A large majority of Democrats (83%) say climate change is affecting their local community a great deal or some.
- By contrast, far fewer Republicans (37%) believe climate change is affecting their local community at least some.
- Most Republicans (62%) say climate change is impacting their local community not too much or at all.
- Among Republicans and Republican leaners, moderates and liberals (55%) are much more likely than conservatives (27%) to say climate change is impacting their community a great deal or some.
- Among Democrats and Democratic leaners, large shares of both liberals (86%) and conservative and moderates (81%) see local impacts from climate change.
Republicans and Republican leaners who describe their political views as moderate or liberal (roughly 1/3 of all Republicans and leaners) are much more likely than conservative Republicans to see local impacts of climate change, support policies to address it, and say the federal government is doing too little in areas of environmental protection.
Further, according to the Center, younger generations and women in the GOP tend to be more critical of government action on the environment than their older and male counterparts.
As a whole, moderate and liberal Republicans are more critical of government action on the environment than conservative Republicans. Narrow majorities say the government is doing too little to protect water and air quality, wildlife and their habit and to reduce the effects of climate change. Ideological gaps among Democrats are more modest than among Republicans.