When it comes to climate, we’ve been watchingCaliforniaforawhile and wondering why the climate buzz is particularly loud in Cali. Does citizen concern spur lawmakers into action or does state action spur buzz among citizens? Or both?

Nowadays it’s definitely both. Californians are ahead of the curve when it comes to opinions about both threats from climate pollution and potential opportunities; they’re savvy about policy options, and regional impacts.

According to the pollsters, quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle, “one of the striking findings of the poll was that there was little difference in views on warming based on party affiliation.” In my opinion, this is at least partly because GOP Governor Schwarzenegger has taken a lead on climate policy, allowing party lines to blur when it comes to responsible choices for all Californians who are thinking about the future they’d like to leave their kids and grandkids. (When he’s talking about climate, Arnie mentions the legacy we’re leaving our grandchildren in almost everyspeechthesedays.)

Here are some findings from a pollreleased last Friday that surveyed more than 1,000 state residents.

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    • Eighty percent of Californians surveyed said they believe that global warming poses a serious or very serious threat; and seventy percent said global warming is extremely important or very important to them personally. An identical question asked in an ABC News/Washington Post/Stanford University poll in April found that 52 percent of U.S. adults described the issue as important to them.
    • Majorities have a clear idea of regional impacts: Sixty-three percent said it threatens the snowpack in the Sierras; 66 percent said it poses health risks to residents where air quality is poor; 53 percent believe it could hurt Central Valley farmers; and 51 percent said it threatens low-lying coastal communities.
    • Californians are also more optimistic than other Americans that greenhouse gases can be cut without hurting the economy. Eighty-five percent of Californians in the poll said they agree strongly or somewhat with the view that emissions can be reduced while creating jobs and expanding the economy.
    • Eight of 10 surveyed support tax incentives to industry to reduce emissions, and 79 percent back similar incentives for individuals.
    • A similar majority supports government regulations requiring businesses to cut their emissions, although that support dropped from 81 percent to 61 percent if the new rules increased the cost of goods and services.
    • Statewide, 65 percent of voters back a “cap-and-trade” system – where emissions are capped and polluters can trade credits to emit greenhouse gases – while 26 percent oppose it. California lawmakers have approved a cap-and-trade scheme and Congress is considering legislation to do the same.
    • Asked about a carbon tax, Californians initially like the idea (72 percent support), but only 53 percent said they would remain supportive if the tax increased costs for consumers. The idea of imposing a carbon tax on individuals is narrowly favored 52 percent to 43 percent. However, support grows to 65 percent if the money from the tax was spent solely on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
    • A whopping 9 in 10 Californians said the state could be a leader in new technologies to address global warming.

    While Democrats and Republicans in the state are seeing eye to eye on climate, there was a bigger opinion gap based on how much people knew about the issue. Those who said they’d heard a great deal about climate change were 20 percent more likely to say the issue was important. And in California these days, it’s difficult not to hear a fair amount about the issue and a range of solutions. There’s a buzz in the air.


    The fine print: The poll was sponsored by Next Ten, a Palo Alto-based group founded by venture capitalist F. Noel Perry that “seeks to get Californians engaged in issues affecting the state’s future.” The survey was based on a random sample of 1,003 California adults, interviewed by telephone in English and Spanish from Aug. 10-28, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.