American citizens view climate change as more important than they did two years ago, according to the annual Pew Research Center policy priorities survey published earlier this month. ‘Dealing with global warming’ ticked up a substantial 10 points since the January 2013 survey, along with a 12 point up-tick for ‘improving the nation’s infrastructure,’ which had registered a nine point increase in the previous poll.
This is both encouraging and challenging news for local leaders on the front lines of dealing with climate impacts, including impacts to critical infrastructure. Encouraging to know that their citizens increasingly support local climate action, and challenging because climate impacts may prove difficult to solve quickly and easily.
Besides the Republican face-off over the Keystone XL pipeline, the hottest energy and environment issue is the Obama administration’s proposal to cut power plant emissions, favored by the public by a 64% to 31% margin.
The Pew study also reports that — for the first time in five years — more Americans say Obama’s economic policies have made conditions better (38%) than worse (28%), and that Obama engenders more confidence on the economy than do the leaders of the new Republican majority in Congress. The percentage of Americans who say the economy is doing well has increased by 11 points since Obama’s last State of the Union in January 2014. The percentage rating economic conditions as ‘poor’ has fallen 15 percentage points over the same period. Moreover, 36% say there are plenty of jobs of available in their communities, among the highest during Obama’s presidency.
The Washington Post’s Roberto Ferdman explores various possibilities for the public’s increased priority on climate change in his Wonkblog, pointing out that “No matter the cause, the increased understanding that global warming is an issue to be taken seriously, not only in classrooms and laboratories, but by lawmakers in the United States, is an encouraging sign.”
Pew Research Center is out with a new survey and, for the first time in years, it actually bodes well for those hoping climate change will finally become a policy priority in the United States.
The center asked a nationally representative pool of Americans which policy issues they believe should be a top priority for the Obama administration and newly appointed Congress this year. Only 38 percent of people said they thought global warming qualifies, which is almost low enough to make the issue the least important to the American public out of 23 responses. Only global trade, which 30 percent of respondents said was a top priority, was lower.
Terrorism and the economy, by contrast, are viewed as policy priorities for 2015 by 76 percent and 75 percent of the population, respectively. The list of issues that people think are more important than global warming is pretty long, as you can see in the chart below.