Majority of Americans Say Climate Change Is an Emergency

Large icebergs float away as the sun rises near Kulusuk, Greenland, on Aug. 16, 2019. Scientists are hard at work, trying to understand the alarmingly rapid melting of the ice. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

(CN) – Amid a heat wave that saw the hottest June and July in recorded human history, a majority of Americans now say climate change is an emergency – and an increasing number of Republicans say they are concerned but don’t consider it an emergency – according to two new polls released Thursday.

A national Quinnipiac University poll found that 56% of registered voters believe climate change is an emergency, with 84% of Democrats and 63% of independent voters saying so. Only 18% of Republicans polled said the same, compared to 81% who said they believe climate change is not an emergency.

“As fires in the Amazon rainforest serve as just the latest concern about the planet, there is a sense of urgency about climate change among American voters,” said Mary Snow, polling analyst for the Quinnipiac University Poll, in a statement. “More than half call it an emergency.”

While Republicans politicians have historically rejected the scientific findings on climate change, Republican voters do have some concerns about it even if they do not necessarily consider it an immediate threat.

In a survey released Thursday by Dutch pollster Glocalities, researchers discovered that more Americans, 69% in 2019 compared to 61% in 2014, say they worry about damage being caused to Earth.

The strongest increase comes from Republicans, 58% of whom said they were concerned, compared to just 47% in 2014. A large driver of this comes from young Republicans ages 18-34, with 67% saying they are worried about climate change.

Martijn Lampert, research director at Glocalities said that more religious Republicans are tying their faith to the problems of climate change.

‘’Being a steward of the Earth is part of the Christian faith,” Lampert said. “Now the scientific evidence of human caused damage to earth is abundantly available and people see the consequences with their own eyes – think for example about plastic waste in the environment and oceans, increasing wildfires, droughts and flooding – opinions are shifting among Republicans.

“And the shift is even more prominent among the younger Republicans who are more globally oriented and have more trust in media, education and science compared to older Republicans.’’

Along with increased belief in the crisis of climate change, more Americans say the government is not doing enough to combat it. A record number of registered voters, 67%, said the United States needs to do more to address the worsening crisis. Only 20% polled said the U.S. is doing enough and a mere 8% said the government is doing too much.

At last weekend’s G-7 summit, President Donald Trump skipped out on the group’s climate change meeting. The president has received harsh criticism for his denial of climate change and a number of policies deemed harmful to the environment enacted under his administration, including the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement which sought to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Lampert, the shifting of opinion on climate change among Republicans could harm his 2020 reelection chances.

‘’The increasing numbers may have serious implications for the Republican Party,” Lampert said. “If Donald Trump keeps on denying climate change and refrains from standing up for the environment, he won’t be able to grow among the young and be heavily reliant on older generations of Republican voters for winning again.”

Lampert said he believes education and witnessing of climate change effects has helped drive up Americans’ concerns about how serious the crisis is.

‘’Education, scientific evidence of environmental degradation, personal experiences and the increased coverage in the media of environmental disasters are driving the global shift in opinions about the environment,” Lampert said. “The recent apocalyptic images of the Amazon and the Arctic region on fire, melting glaciers, heat waves and flooding due to hurricanes and heavy rainfall contribute to the urgency of the topic.”

He added that younger Americans seem to have a better grasp on the subject than older Americans who might be reluctant to believe in the climate change crisis.

“The youngest generation globally is the best educated generation in human history and as a whole cannot be deceived by self-oriented or irresponsible leadership,” he said.

The Quinnipiac University poll surveyed 1,422 registered voters Aug. 21-26 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

The Glocalities survey interviewed 189,996 people in 20 countries from 2014 to 2019 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 0.45 percentage points at a 95% confidence interval.

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