The Climate Disconnect Between Americans and Congress – and What to Do About It
In survey after survey, the message is clear – Americans want the government to support the expansion of clean energy, protection of public lands, and pollution controls. A new poll from Hart Research Associates found that 60 percent of voters strongly support setting limits on carbon emissions from power plants (and 82 percent are somewhat supportive). Support for other environment-friendly policies was also high.
But as Think Progress points out in this article, the new Congress intends to do the very opposite of what voters want. Republican leaders have vowed to repeal the EPA’s proposed limits on carbon emissions, approve the Keystone XL pipeline, and make it harder to create and protect national parks.
So what can we do about it? We can inspire Americans to voice their support of climate solutions so loudly and strongly that Congress has no choice but to listen. Here’s how to keep the positive momentum going.
Always be communicating. The climate message we’ve been sending out is working. A recent survey from Pew Research Center found that 38 percent of Americans think climate change should be a top priority for the government. While this might seem low, it represents an increase of nearly 10 percent over last year. That’s a huge jump. So we need to keep doing what we’ve been doing – tailoring our message to the values and identities of our audience, and connecting on the issues that resonate the most.
Lead with solutions. People are more apt to take action on an issue if they believe the problem can be solved. Helping them envision climate solutions – and showing how those solutions will directly benefit them and their communities – is one of the best ways to build support and commitment. The more strongly they believe in the benefits, the more fiercely they’ll fight for them.
Reach out to the skeptical. While support for climate solutions is growing across all parties, there are still many who aren’t on board. For those who are resistant because the facts challenge their personal beliefs, we can help make them aware of this bias by asking ask them to consider, “What would be the worst thing about being wrong?” If the science is just too overwhelming, we can translate it into relatable, easily understood terms. If they’re sticking to business-as-usual because they’re uncertain if climate change is a threat, we can justify action by invoking the “precautionary principle”: better safe than sorry.
Support local solutions. Cities and organizations don’t need to wait for the federal government’s support to move forward on climate solutions. Campuses, churches, businesses, hospitals, and municipalities can lead by example by investing in sustainable practices and engaging their constituents in their efforts.
Raise your voice. Where support for climate solutions exists, help make it known (and impossible to ignore). For example, health leaders might join the Physicians for Social Responsibility’s CHAT teams, and amplify support for the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan.
We’ve been doing excellent work – let’s keep it up.
Emily Atkin, contributor to Think Progress
A majority of U.S. voters think the government should be advancing policies that promote the growth of renewable energy, protect public lands, and strengthen protections against pollution of drinking water and air, according to a poll released Thursday by the Center for American Progress.
Conducted by national research firm Hart Research Associates, the poll of 1,101 American voters found that 72 percent strongly support more pollution controls, 70 percent strongly support protecting public lands like monuments and wildlife refuge areas, and 66 percent support the expansion of wind, solar, and renewable energy development. Sixty percent of voters surveyed also said they strongly supported setting limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants — a number that rose to 82 percent when including voters who said they somewhat support that proposal.
As noted by the Center in its press release accompanying the survey results, these opinions differ greatly from the policies being proposed and advanced by the Republican leaders of the new 114th Congress. Those include efforts to repeal the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed limits on greenhouse gases from power plants; efforts to increase the amount of Canadian tar sands oil entering the United States via approval of the Keystone XL pipeline; and a bill to lengthen and complicate the process for designating national monuments.
Image credit: Flickr / Toban B.