Highlights and trends from our research on Americans' beliefs, opinions, and perceptions about climate change.
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Last fall, several national and international academies issued reports on the impacts of climate change, including on human health. From the IPCC to NCA, WHO and Lancet reports, the impacts on health were found to be more severe and pervasive than previously thought. But are Americans making the health and climate connection? Are they seeing the impacts of climate on their personal or families’ health? Do they understand that climate solutions benefit their health and wellbeing?
Americans who voted for Donald Trump expect him to “Make America Great Again,” but they don’t think gutting the EPA and withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords is the way to do it. According to ecoAmerica’s February survey, only nine percent of Americans think Trump should limit EPA actions on climate change. Similarly, only 19% of Americans think Trump should withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords. And at this early mark in his administration
only 31 percent think Trump is doing a good job.
This survey was conducted during the first week of February 2017, two weeks after Trump’s inauguration. In this short time, Trump had already put gag orders in place on the EPA and
removed climate change information from the White House website.
If you believe that climate change is a big problem, as a clear majority of Americans do, how do you solve it? There are many ways to reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change and other environmental and human health problems. The simplest solution is to make the polluters pay, giving them incentive to reduce pollution. But then what do you do with the money?
The Washington, DC-based non-profit ecoAmerica found broad support for all six of the most popular climate change solutions, with 60% of Americans saying they would support a price on carbon pollution, followed closely by modernizing America’s electric grid, which 57% would support.
As America celebrated the 47th Earth Day this past weekend with science marches in Washington, DC and other major cities, Americans are getting the message. Despite all the denial coming out of the Trump administration, a record 82% of Americans believe that climate change is happening, and 77% of them believe the scientists and agree that it’s caused all or partially by human activities.
The April 2017 American Climate Perspectives Survey conducted by the non-profit ecoAmerica found significant increases in awareness of climate change and alignment with science that overwhelmingly finds humans are the cause. “All across America, people are seeing unusual and rapid shifts in seasonal weather patterns,” said Meighen Speiser, ecoAmerica’s Chief Engagement
Officer. “And Americans know that burning toxic fossil fuels causes dangerous pollution. There are very few of us left who are not making the connection.”
While climate denial pervades the Trump administration, and climate change information is wiped off of official websites, American concern about climate change is skyrocketing. Nearly seven in ten Americans report they are personally concerned about climate change. Half of Americans report they are more concerned now that Trump is President.
The May 2017 American Climate Perspectives Survey conducted by the non-profit ecoAmerica found half of Americans are more concerned about climate change since Trump’s election.
President Trump has signed a raft of executive orders reversing Obama era climate policies–in clear in opposition to the will of the majority of American people. Instead of rolling back climate progress, slashing budgets, or rejuvenating fossil fuels, a majority (71%) of Americans would rather our country continue on the path toward clean energy.
In their May 2017 American Climate Perspectives Survey the non-profit ecoAmerica found less than one third of Americans agree with any of President Trump’s executive orders to reverse climate progress.
From children’s books to television shows, movies and news, American children often hear negative information or see dystopic images of the future of our natural world. Renowned children and nature author Richard Louv suggests a new direction, and the American people agree.
“We have a choice. If we see only an apocalyptic future, that’s what we’ll get, or close to it,” said Louv. Instead, he suggests we “imagine a society in which our lives become as immersed in nature as they are in technology, every day, where we live, work, learn and play, a future in which our intelligence and creativity, our ability to feel and be fully alive is enhanced by more frequent contact with the natural world.”
As Americans head into summer, and the opportunity to spend more time in nature, non-profit ecoAmerica decided to ask them what they think about the subject. The June 2017 American Climate Perspectives Survey found that over nine in ten Americans agree, with well-over half of them strongly agreeing, that we should talk about a future we want–with thriving, healthy
nature–when talking to children about nature.
Mayors across the country are stepping forward to lead on climate in the wake of federal backsliding on the Paris Climate Accords. This leadership is strongly supported by the people in their communities, according to non-profit ecoAmerica.
In the July 2017 American Climate Perspectives Survey ecoAmerica found that eight in ten Americans would like to see their community take steps to address climate change and prepare for its impacts. Democrats reported the highest agreement at 95% (79% strongly agree), followed by Independents at 77% (55% strongly) and Republicans at 57% (26% strongly).
Our daily news is flooded with stories on the myriad of ways America is divided, causing us to lose sight of our commonality. Climate change is a topic notoriously rife with polarized political viewpoints. But the gaps in opinion and support are narrowing, and alignment on the issue is on the rise. ecoAmerica decided to explore a key factor thought to influence climate attitudes—religion—in the pursuit of common ground. In their August 2017 American Climate Perspectives Survey ecoAmerica asked respondents to categorize themselves by religious conviction, and the following are the findings.
ecoAmerica found that over 95% of Americans, spanning religious conviction, agree (78% strongly agree) we have a moral responsibility to be good stewards of nature. Significant numbers of respondents also reported being affected by heat waves, extreme weather, and increased pests. This indicates that stewardship of nature, and concern about climate impacts, are common ground attitudes, rooted in both American and religious values. These findings illustrate avenues for America to explore in building common cause and support for climate solutions.
ecoAmerica decided to explore positive vs. negative climate messages further in their September 2017 American Climate Perspectives Survey. They found that 68% of Americans feel hopeful or motivated when they hear or read that “America is moving rapidly towards clean energy, and this will ensure a livable future.” Similarly, 63% of Americans feel hopeful or motivated when they hear or read that “we can heal our climate by removing climate change pollution from our
oceans and atmosphere.” And, 61% of Americans are concerned or motivated to take action when they hear/read the doomsday message, “climate change is a threat to our lives and will eventually destroy our ability to live on Earth.” Looking more closely, the percentage of respondents who are motivated to take action by positive themes averages at 19%, while those who are motivated by the doomsday theme are slightly higher, at 26%, but within the range of parity.
In an effort to better understand trends in Americans’ shifting attitudes on and awareness of climate change, and to underscore areas of common ground, ecoAmerica synthesized findings from the latest national polls in its American Climate Perspectives: 2017 Annual Summary. ecoAmerica’s report reveals that concern for climate has soared, Americans feel they personally and collectively can and should act on climate, and various solutions are garnering broad appeal. Findings also show the withdrawal from the Paris agreement was not in alignment with public will, and indicate Americans want to bring solutions home to their local communities. Below are the six most significant trends ecoAmerica found in 2017.
With election season upon us, many Americans have the opportunity to voice their opinions on issues they want their leaders to act on in 2018. While issues like healthcare, immigration, and gun safety top the list of voting priorities, ecoAmerica’s November 2017 American Climate Perspectives Survey found three-fourths of Americans report they will be voting for a candidate based on their position on climate change, with half strongly agreeing.
Anyone paying attention to the news on climate change in 2017 has learned about record-setting climate impacts, dire predictions, and over 30 rollbacks of important protections at the federal level. The abundance of negative news has the potential to deflate aspiration into resignation, and motivation into fatalism. Despite all of the bad news, however, there is a glimmer of hope.
The December 2017 American Climate Perspectives Survey, by ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners, found notable year-over-year rises in American climate action and advocacy. The number of Americans who reported being “very concerned” about climate rose similarly.