Americans Pessimistic on Global Fight of Carbon Emissions

A passenger airliner flies past steam and white smoke emitted from a coal-fired plant.(AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)

(CN) – Few Americans believe the world will be able to significantly reduce carbon emissions, according to an August 2019 poll conducted by The Associated Press and the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center.

The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research surveyed 1,058 adults from each state and Washington, D.C. in mid-August via web and phone questionnaires.

While more than half of U.S. adults are “extremely” or “very worried” about the current state of the environment in the U.S. and on a global scale, less than one-third are as concerned about their local areas.

Americans’ fear has significantly grown over the past five years. AP-NORC’s November 2014 questionnaire found only 29% of U.S. adults were at least “very worried” about the United States’ environmental health; 39% were as concerned about Earth.

Two-thirds of American adults believe they can affect climate change with their own behavior, but few are optimistic that the global community will act effectively. Though 72% of U.S. adults polled believe humankind will attempt to significantly reduce emissions in the next decade, far fewer – 28% – consider it “very likely” that emissions will in fact be reduced.

Researchers asked respondents how they felt about proposed government policies. Funding renewable energy research was by far the most popular, as 77% “somewhat” or “strongly favored” it. The second most popular option, regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power and industrial plants, polled at 66%. Extracting oil and natural gas via fracking technology proved the least attractive policy, with only 45% of respondents at least somewhat opposed it.

Respondents were skeptical of both the White House and the news media at large, finding climate scientists to be a more trustworthy source for accurate climate science information. Half of respondents said they trust news reporters “not much” or “not at all,” and two-thirds said the same of the Trump administration. More than half, 55%, said they trust climate scientists “a great deal” or “a lot.”

Americans ranked future generations, air quality, animal and plant life and the drinking water supply highest in their concerns. Respondents ranked infrastructure, themselves, the poor and coastal communities lower in their lists of worries about climate change’s impact.

The poll’s margin of error for all respondents is 4.2 percentage points.

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