The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 4 among 1,500 adults (reached on cell phones and landlines) revealed some disheartening trends when it comes to opinions about climate change. At the same time, things are looking decent (if not rosy) for cap and trade policy.
- 57 percent think there is solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades. In April 2008, 71 percent said there was solid evidence of rising global temperatures.
- Over the same period, there has been a comparable decline in the proportion of Americans who say global temperatures are rising as a result of human activity, such as burning fossil fuels. Just 36 percent say that currently, down from 47 percent last year.
- The decline in the belief in solid evidence of global warming has come across the political spectrum, but has been particularly pronounced among independents. Pew found that just 53 percent of independents now see solid evidence of global warming, compared with 75 percent who did so in April 2008.
- Republicans, who already were highly skeptical of the evidence of global warming, have become even more so: just 35 percent of Republicans now see solid evidence of rising global temperatures, down from 49 percent in 2008 and 62 percent in 2007. Fewer Democrats also express this view—75 percent today compared with 83 percent last year.
Despite this trend backwards when it comes to skepticism (is it a seasonal thing?), the survey found more support than opposition for a policy to set limits on carbon emissions.
- Half of Americans favor setting limits on carbon emissions and making companies pay for their emissions, even if this may lead to higher energy prices.
- 39 percent oppose imposing limits on carbon emissions under these circumstances.
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The fact is, most folks just haven’t heard much about cap and trade. Sadly, the more people hear, the more likely they are to oppose the policy—and the numbers indicate that opponents’ anti-cap and trade messaging to Republicans and independents are sinking in more effectively.
- Just 14 percent say they have heard a lot about cap and trade policy; another 30 percent say they have heard a little about the policy, while a majority (55 percent) has heard nothing at all.
- The small minority that has heard a lot about the issue opposes carbon emissions limits by two-to-one (64 percent to 32 percent).
- More Republicans (20 percent) and independents (17 percent) than Democrats (8 percent) have heard a lot about cap and trade.
- Among the much larger group that has head little or nothing about the issue, most support it (50 percent little, 58 percent nothing).
Finally, with less than two months before the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, a majority (56 percent) of Americans think the United States should join other countries in setting standards to address global climate change.