Worry about climate change seeps across political party lines way more than just a few years ago. But the private-sector investment, public policy and personal habit changes believed needed to slow Earth’s warming still splits voters, a poll out Monday shows.
The survey of 1,000 registered voters, commissioned by the center-right Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions (CRES) and conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, reveals that 60% of voters polled continue to support the federal government taking more action to address climate change. That includes 37% of Republicans and 66% of independents.
The CRES poll shows a staggering increase in voters — even Republicans — who say their lives have been impacted by climate change.
“That’s a 14% increase overall from just one year ago,” said Heather Reams, president of CRES. “And, older Americans say they see the impact, too — a 22% jump in 55–64-year-olds and 17% increase for those 65 and older.”
Wording may also matter, the CRES poll found that respondents viewed “energy” among the least partisan issues for voters, but “climate change” as the most partisan.
The findings show “voters want realistic climate solutions and support energy and climate policies authored and championed by many Republicans in Congress,” Reams said.
“Alternatively, our data show Republican and independent voters oppose heavy-handed policies typically backed by Democrats such as higher fossil-fuel taxes and the elimination of natural gas
from our energy mix,” Reams said.
Some 70% of voters support accelerating the development and use of clean energy
the poll found.
That topic will feature in President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. With high inflation, the Russia/Ukraine conflict and other issues front of mind, the SOTU may not save much time for tactical climate policy moves. Biden is expected to commend the green-energy aspects of the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed last year and reinvigorate his push for Congress to dust off the stalled Build Back Better spending bill, which would target electric-vehicle, solar and other alternative energy options, including for consumers. Biden has said he may try to advance climate and energy spending asks separately.
Biden has pushed for cutting subisidies for oil
and gas and says he wants the U.S. on a path to halve its emissions by 50% by the end of the decade. He has also expressed interest in Republican-favored approaches to cutting emissions, including carbon capture and storage, nuclear and still-nascent green hydrogen technologies.
Fossil-fuel combustion for energy accounts for about 74% of total Earth-warming U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions, the Energy Information Agency says. Focus lately has stepped up on more potent, but shorter-lived, methane emissions. Late last year, as part of a major U.N.-led climate change conference, at least 110 countries made a pledge to cut methane emissions from human activities — including agriculture, the energy sector and other sources — 30% by 2030. Yet, of the five countries with the largest methane emissions from their energy sectors — China, Russia, the U.S., Iran and India — only the U.S. signed on.
Republicans have said that the U.S. shouldn’t bear extra responsibility without agreement from major polluters.
Trade group the American Petroleum Institute said at the time of the November methane pledge that it backed the efforts, at least broadly. API has said methane emissions rates in the largest producing U.S. regions have declined 70% in the past decade, even as America produces “more affordable, reliable and cleaner natural gas.”
CRES says its survey also shows that more than half of Americans oppose banning natural gas for cooking or heating uses in the construction of new family homes. And when voters polled were told that a natural gas ban “could result in energy shortages and rising prices,” their opposition to the ban jumped to 71%.
New York City created a law that prohibits the combustion of fossil fuels, namely gas, for cooking and heating in select new buildings. The ban will apply to new structures under seven stories tall starting in 2024, and to larger buildings in 2027. The state is considering its own bill.
New York is not alone. Berkeley, Calif., became the first city in the U.S. to ban gas hookups in new construction in 2019. And now at least 42 cities in California, including San Francisco and San Jose, have acted to limit gas in new buildings. Salt Lake City and Denver have also made plans to move toward electrification.
Over one-third of U.S. households — more than 40 million homes — cook with gas.
“Natural gas stood out as one of the key solutions voters believe can help the U.S. transition to a cleaner economy,” Reams said.
Also released Monday, the U.N.’s influential Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued the second of three multiyear reports. Rather than focus on how countries and cities can cut emissions in the future, this round drilled down on short-term crises around the world in places under immediate threat and with no funding to act. And it called out the oil and gas industries in particular.