Poll Finds Californians ‘Very Concerned’ About Climate Impact on Wildfires

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — More Californians than ever are worried that global warming has intensified the severity of wildfires, an issue that could play a major role in the 2020 presidential election, according to a poll released Monday.

After two deadly and devastating wildfire seasons in 2017 and 2018, a whopping 71% of Californians said they were “very concerned” that wildfires are more severe now due to climate change. That compares to 62% who reported being very concerned one year ago.

The poll from the Public Policy Institute of California found wildfires the No. 1 climate-related issue vexing Golden State residents. Less than 50% of Californians are worried about rising sea levels and heat waves, according to the poll. A majority voiced support for state government efforts to combat climate change.

The poll also asked likely voters whom they plan to support for president in 2020.

Sen. Kamala Harris leads the pack in her home state with 19% among likely Democratic primary voters. Harris is trailed by Elizabeth Warren at 15%, Bernie Sanders at 12%, Joe Biden at 11% and Pete Buttigieg with 5%.

President Trump has a 38% approval rate among likely California voters, higher than the 17% approval rate for Congress among Californians.

The survey found 44% of likely voters consider candidates’ positions on the environment “very important” to their decisions.

“With high disapproval ratings for President Trump and Congress, many California likely voters say that environmental positions are very important in choosing a presidential candidate,” said Mark Baldassare, president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan think tank.

The poll found that 45% of Californians approve of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s performance during the first few months of his administration, relatively unchanged from approval ratings reported in May and January.

Californians overwhelmingly support state efforts to combat climate change, according to the poll. A 67% majority supports reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, and 71% favor transitioning to 100% renewable energy sources for electricity by 2045.

Regarding recent legislation that established a $21 billion fund to cover wildfire damage caused by electric utility equipment, 57% said they support the legislation.

When asked if global warming contributed to California’s recent wildfires, 63% answered affirmatively, a 2% drop from 2016.

Other issues that rank high among Californians include water quality and the condition of the ocean and beaches. More than 77% say the ocean and beaches are important to the state’s economy and quality of life, and 67% oppose oil drilling off the coast of California. Another 58% say pollution of drinking water poses a more serious health concern in lower-income areas of the state.

The findings are based on telephone surveys of 1,706 California adult residents conducted between July 14 and July 23, 2019. The results have a 3.4 percent margin of error.

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