Americans are paying more attention to climate change, according to a Yale report released earlier this month.
The majority of Americans want the United States government to take action against climate change and will consider candidates’ stances on the issue when casting their vote, according to a Jan. 15 report by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. This YPCCC report, called “The Political Benefits to Taking a Pro-Climate Stance in 2013,” shows that 88 percent of Americans overall — including 72 percent of Republicans — believe that the United States should make at least a small-scale effort to reduce global warming.
Reflecting a September 2012 survey, these record-breaking numbers are part of a steady upward trend in public support for action on climate change. But perhaps more importantly, this study shows that the stance of independent voters toward global warming is changing, said YPCCC Director Anthony Leiserowitz.
“Increasingly, independents are coming to resemble Democrats more than Republicans when it comes to their views on global warming,” Leiserowitz said. “Not only does that mean that Democrats taking action on climate change are probably not going to suffer significant losses, it also means that for Republicans seeking a way back into national prominence at the presidential level, climate change, like immigration, could be one of those issues by which they reach out and appeal to the middle.”
Leiserowitz confirmed that the YPCCC report has been read in the White House, and that individuals in Congress and the media are paying close attention to these findings.
Bonnie Hemphill FES ’13, who is involved in YPCCC, attributed the government’s increased attention to climate change to the social movement behind the issue.
“Everyday people are saying, ‘I want a stable climate for my kids.’ And the government is responding to it,” said Hemphill.
However, the national consensus on the importance of addressing climate change is expected to fragment when the issue is debated on the floor of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
“As politicians start talking about the issue, partisanship becomes increasingly important,” said Emily Vraga, a YPCCC report co-author from the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. “Republicans are often reminded — my party doesn’t support this. Meanwhile, Democrats are often reminded — my party does.”
The YPCCC report does show that an overwhelming degree of national consensus across party lines exists when it comes to investing in renewable energy sources in the future. With regard to eliminating fossil fuels or enacting a carbon tax, party divisions become more pronounced.
Originally known as the Yale Project on Climate Change, the YPCCC began in 2005.