Poll: Just 15% of Americans trust China to help fight climate change

·Senior Editor
·3-min read

When it comes to fighting climate change, few Americans surveyed say they trust China, the world's leading emitter of greenhouse gases, to do its part. 

Just 15 percent of U.S. adults in a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll said they believed "China can be trusted to help fight climate change." Fifty-seven percent said China could not be trusted, and 28 percent said they were not sure. 

The poll also found deeper mistrust of China among Republicans, with 79 percent saying it could not be trusted, compared with 47 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents. 

The findings come weeks after a report by the Rhodium Group found that China's greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 exceeded those of every other nation in the developed world combined. Despite its growing emissions for the gases that scientists say are responsible for global warming, China has pledged this year to become carbon-neutral by 2060. Beijing's government has made no similar pledges on methane gas, which is 28 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide in the short term.

While a clear majority of Americans expressed distrust toward China when it comes to addressing climate change, the U.S. continues to lead the world in per capita greenhouse gas emissions. But thanks in part to a total population that dwarfs that of the U.S., China accounted for 27 percent of global emissions in 2019, while the U.S. contributed 11 percent. 

Despite the lack of faith that China will take adequate measures against climate change, a majority of Americans surveyed said the U.S. should pursue an aggressive strategy to lower greenhouse gas emissions. 

When asked, "Should the U.S. set ambitious climate change goals regardless of what China does?," 51 percent of American adults surveyed said yes, 29 percent said no and 20 percent responded that they were not sure. 

Reluctance to commit the U.S. to strong climate change goals regardless of what China does was highest among Republicans, 56 percent of whom said the U.S. should not, compared with just 9 percent of Democrats and 32 percent of independents. 

BEIJING, CHINA - April 15: The Central Business District is seen during a seasonal sandstorm on April 15, 2021 in Beijing, China. China's capital and the northern part of the country typically experience sandstorms that originate in the Gobi desert, but scientists believe that climate change and desertification also plays a role in their frequency and intensity. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
Beijing's central business district during a sandstorm on April 15. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

At an April climate summit of world leaders, President Biden announced a new U.S. target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 to 52 percent over 2005 levels by the year 2030. 

“This is the decade that we must make decisions to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis,” Biden said at the summit, which he convened. 

More than any U.S. president before him, Biden has made fighting climate change a top priority of his administration. So far, that emphasis has been marginally well received. Asked, "Do you approve or disapprove of the way President Biden is handling climate change?," 24 percent of American adults over the age of 18 said they "strongly approve." Twenty-one percent said they "somewhat approve." Eleven percent said they "somewhat disapprove," and 26 percent said they "strongly disapprove."

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