7 in 10 Americans reducing carbon footprint

Climate_progress_jpegKen Levenson over at Climate Progress analyzes the results of a new ABS News/Planet Green/Stanford University Poll which was recently released with some surprising numbers.  Levenson states that participants were likely more impacted by rising gas prices than by a change of heart.

Highlights:
– 59% are using less gasoline
– 60% are using less power

Posted Aug. 25, 2008,

By  Ken LevensonClimate Progress

Or at least  7 in 10 say they are trying to reduce their carbon footprint.  That’s according to a new ABC News/Planet Green/Stanford University Poll released this month.

Yes, this headline appears very much a result of higher gasoline prices:

59 percent say they’re using less gasoline — driving
less, using smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, carpooling, taking mass
transit and the like.

Yet it goes beyond just gasoline:

60 percent, also say they’re cutting their consumption of power (and water).

Let’s dig in and run through some of the numbers –

Of those reducing:
25% – mainly to save money
33% – environmental reasons
41% – combination of money and environment

The sweet spot is undoubtedly the twofer — money & environment.
And while I’ve heard some argue that we should be careful not to dilute
the environmental message with ideas of economic self interest, a.k.a.
saving money – it seems a no-brainer that the economic benefits for
average families are potentially substantial and fully exploiting that
fact is imperative. We’ll all be conservatives! ;)

Of those not reducing:

54% plus – “say it’s unnecessary, too expensive, too inconvenient, won’t do any good, or that they just aren’t interested”
22% of those not reducing say they’re not trying because they’re not sure of what to do.

Like the 28% still supporting Bush, some are never going to come
around – best to write them off and not be distracted by them. However
for the 22% not knowing what to do we must make sure they are reached
and helped to engage. Far beyond what “We” and 1Sky and other great
privately run public awareness groups are capable of, a big federally
financed public awareness and education campaign is a must.

On the global warming threat:
61% – say it’s not a threat in their lifetime – if nothing is done about it (reduced from 69% in 1997)
73% – say it will be a threat in their children’s lifetime – if nothing is done  (no previous polling data shown)
81% – say it will be a threat to future generations (up 2 points from 2005)

It seems a safe bet, perhaps, that as more people come to think it
threatens their children’s and even their own generation, more will
take action to reduce their carbon footprints. I’m now 41 – so in 2050,
health willing, I’ll be 83, and my daughter will be 43. And at the rate
of things, it’s going to be very bad in 2050. The federally financed
public awareness and education campaign must flip the first number and
push it to 75% saying it WILL threaten their generation. (Again the
last 25% are “Bush dead-enders”.)

Attitudes toward policy approaches:

78% – support stricter fuel efficiency standards for cars
59% – support Cap/Trade
74% – support Cap/Trade when told similar approach succeeded against acid rain
68% – support U.S. action even if other countries do less

Heartening numbers – particularly the last. The new administration needs to run with them.

Likely economic effects of addressing global warming:

33% – say will help U.S. economy
32% – say will hurt U.S. economy

I’m not sure how these numbers add up but the idea that there’s a
split is not surprising and to me, heartening as well. Public education
and effective implementation that demonstrates the economic benefits
should drag the numbers into a clearly supporting position.

On the not so good side:
63% – favor expanding off-shore oil drilling
55% – favor wilderness area drilling

Only 44% favor building more nuclear.  Split by party it’s: 60% of Republicans and 33% of Democrats favoring.

If not great, not surprising either. I think Obama’s approach to
these is basically correct. Use them as bargaining chips to secure the
real action that is going to meaningfully address the problem – getting
beyond the stalling and to work.

Meta:
25% – say global warming is the biggest environmental problem (down 8
points from 2007. First, how could this number be going down? And how
could it be so ridiculously low, period? )
80% – say global warming is occurring (down 5 points from 2006 – how could this too possibly be going down?  Maybe see here.)

50% – reduction in global warming news stories in month prior to poll, from same period in 2007.   (Shocking, right?)

47% – trust scientists’ statements regarding climate
49% – don’t trust scientists’ statements regarding climate
(I believe in always retaining a healthy skepticism but these numbers are ridiculous.)

I think these last numbers are a testament to the power of FoxNews,
Rush Limbaugh and the Right Wing Noise Machine – with their campaign,
well coordinated with the GOP, to confuse, disinform and generally, as
Stephen Colbert so deftly reveals, celebrate ignorance. They’ve cowed
members of the 4th Estate into not fulfilling their civic
responsibility to inform our citizens. All around it is shameful.

So as not to close on a sour note: I think the take away must be
that despite the Right Wing Noise Machine’s best efforts, there is
apparently broad support for meaningful public policy action to tackle
the threat – with 68% supporting U.S. action even if other countries do
less. That is hopeful indeed.

Ken Levenson

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