Most Americans want to see more climate action, divided on how — poll

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Most Americans want to see more climate action, divided on how — poll
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Americans want their government to do more on the climate crisis — but differ sharply in what actions they want and how they rate President Biden’s efforts on climate by party, a new poll shows.

Overall, a full 58 per cent of Americans say the federal government isn’t doing enough to combat the climate crisis, compared to a mere 18 per cent who say it’s doing too much, according to a poll published this week by Pew.

These results come amid reports that West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, has delayed the chances of a major climate bill passing Congress this year — a potential setback for President Biden’s climate agenda and US efforts to address the intensifying planetary crisis.

While general support for federal climate action is high, Americans were split on how they scored Mr Biden’s climate performance. Of those polled, 49 per cent say his policies are moving the country in the right direction and 47 per cent say they’re moving it in the wrong direction.

That was sharply divided by party, with 82 per cent of Republicans and independents who lean Republican saying “wrong direction” and 79 per cent of Democrats and leaners saying “right direction”.

However, among those Democrats who approve of the President’s policies, a full 61 per cent said he could be doing a lot more to address the climate crisis.

Despite slim majorities in both the House and Senate, as well as control of the White House, Democrats have been unable to get any major climate legislation over the finish line since President Biden took office. Though, some funding from the infrastructure bill passed last year is going to climate-related projects.

Senator Manchin’s latest reported decision is likely to postpone any broader climate legislation even further. In addition, the Supreme Court last month curtailed the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gases, another limit to how much the President and executive agencies can do on the climate.

But some climate proposals are broadly popular among Americans, even with some Republicans.

Members of both parties are broadly supportive of planting “about a trillion trees” to absorb carbon emissions, the poll found, with 89 per cent of Republican-leaning adults and 91 per cent of Democratic-leaning adults in favour.

Around two-thirds of all Americans support requiring power companies to use more renewable energy, taxing corporations based on their carbon emissions and incentivising hybrid and electric vehicles. But those policies were vastly more popular among Democrats and leaners than Republicans — each had between 84-90 per cent support on the left, vs 46-49 per cent support on the right.

The two sides’ biggest split was on response to the climate crisis overall. Only 28 per cent of Republicans and leaners say the government is doing too little to address climate, compared to 82 per cent of Democrats.

But some younger Republicans were more supportive of federal climate action than their older counterparts. Only 18 per cent of Republicans/leaners over 65 said the government wasn’t doing enough on climate — compared to 47 per cent of Republicans between the ages of 18 and 29.

Those younger members of the right were also more likely to support policies like taxing corporate carbon, requiring additional renewable energy and incentivizing electric cars than older Republicans.

Most Americans felt that the government wasn’t doing enough to address environmental issues besides the climate crisis. A majority of all adults said that the federal government is doing too little to protect animals and habitats, air quality and water quality — and a plurality of Americans say they’re not doing enough to protect open lands in parks and preserves.

One environmental policy was not particularly popular, however. Fifty-five per cent of adults were opposed to phasing out gas cars by 2035, with 43 per cent in favour — although almost two-thirds of Democrats were in favour of the idea.

Government action or not, many Americans also told pollsters that they had personally experienced some of the consequences of the burgeoning climate crisis.

Forty-three per cent said they had seen severe weather like floods and storms in the past year and 42 per cent noted long periods of hot weather. About a third said they noticed drought in their area over the past year, but that number shoots up to 68 per cent in the US West, which has been rocked by a decades-long “megadrought”.

The same is true for wildfires —21 per cent of Americans said they had experienced major wildfires over the past year, including 59 per cent in the West.

And of the people who say they’ve experienced these weather events, most put the blame on the climate crisis. Vast majorities of the Americans who reported severe weather, heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and rising seas said the climate contributed either “a lot” or “a little”.

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