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World

Poll: U.S. Citizens Want Local Leaders to Fight Warming

More U.S. citizens oppose than favor Trump's effort to pull the U.S. out of the 2015 Paris accord

President Donald Trump speaks about the U.S. role in the Paris climate change accord, Thursday, June 1, 2017, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, photo: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
2 weeks ago

WASHINGTON – U.S. citizens want their local officials to take on the challenge of battling global warming now that President Donald Trump is withdrawing the nation an international climate change agreement.

That’s according to a new poll by a news agency-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. The poll finds 57 percent of U.S. citizens say they favor local governments picking up the slack to try and reduce greenhouse gas emissions on their own, with only 10 percent opposing it. About 55 percent of U.S. citizens say their own local and state governments should be doing more to address global warming, with only 10 percent saying they should be doing less.

And more U.S. citizens oppose than favor Trump’s effort to pull the U.S. out of the 2015 Paris accord, in which nearly 200 nations agreed to self-imposed cuts or limits on emissions of heat-trapping gas pollution. Forty-two percent of those surveyed said they oppose getting out of the Paris agreement, while 28 percent favored the withdrawal and 28 percent had no strong opinion. Among Democrats 64 percent want to stay in the Paris agreement and 17 percent don’t. More Republicans favored withdrawing, 46 percent, than staying in, 22 percent.

Martha Oberman, an online businesswoman from Texas who sells collectibles, called Trump’s decision to get out of the Paris agreement “horrible, short-sighted.”

“If we’re not going to get [action] from the top, you have to start at the bottom at the local level and work its way to the top,” Oberman said.

Local governments can get things done, said Antonio Torres, a former chef in central Florida. He’d like to see local governments bring more solar energy use online.

That rings true with Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, who co-chairs two committees of mayors who are fighting climate change. One of her groups has 115 cities committed to the goal of having their cities operating entirely on renewable energy by the year 2035. Salt Lake City is hoping to beat that goal by a few years.

“We’re leading the conversation because we have to now,” Biskupski said. “Here we are with the president coming out against supporting the Paris agreement. Now we really ramped things up with the mayors across the country.”

Overall, 72 percent of U.S. citizens say they believe climate change is happening and 63 percent think human activity is at least partially responsible. Eighty-two percent of Democrats and 43 percent of Republicans say they believe in at least partially human-caused climate change. The poll was conducted before a spate of hurricanes battered Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

Eighty percent of Democrats and 43 percent of Republicans think it’s a problem the U.S. government should be addressing.

Torres said in Florida he feels the heat of climate change and recently his house was banged up by Hurricane Irma.

“We definitely have climate change,” Oberman said from Texas. “We’ve seen Houston. We’ve seen Puerto Rico. To say there is no climate change is crazy.”

But not Ruth Acquaviva of Delaware, who retired from working in accounting.

“What are you going to do about it? It’s a natural phenomenon,” she said. “It’s Mother Nature changing some things. It’s not a big deal.”

Around 90 percent of all scientific studies and nearly every major scientific organization in the world say climate change is real, at least partly caused by humans and a problem. But to that Acquaviva said those researchers “are absolutely bullcrap. There’s no way in God’s world they can prove to me it’s man-made.”

Acquaviva said there’s no need “to spend money on climate change.”

However, most U.S. citizens said they’d be willing to spend a little extra on their electricity bill to fight climate change, with the key words being “a little.” Just over half — 51 percent — would be willing to pay an additional $1 on each month’s electricity bill, though just 4 in 10 would be willing to pay an additional $10 a month. About 3 in 10 would even be willing to pay an additional $20 to $40 a month.

Just under half of U.S. citizens — 48 percent — called climate change a very or extremely important issue, while 54 percent said the same of energy policy. In contrast, at least two-thirds say health care, the economy and terrorism are important policy priorities.

In general, U.S. citizens were twice as likely to oppose as to favor the current direction of U.S. energy policy, 35 percent to 17 percent, but nearly half didn’t state a preference either way.

The news agency-NORC poll of 1,038 adults was conducted Aug. 17-21 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

The survey was paid for by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.

Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods, and they were later interviewed online or by phone.

SETH BORENSTEIN
EMILY SWANSON

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