California Governor Jerry Brown is hosting local leaders, investors and CEOs from across the globe for the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco this week. In a rebuke of President Trump’s work to weaken climate policy at home and abroad, Brown is building support for international efforts to fight climate change by spurring cities, states and businesses to cut carbon pollution.
Like Brown, the vast majority of Americans think elected leaders should tackle the carbon crisis.
Nearly eight in 10 believe that officials at every level of government bear some responsibility to rein in climate change, according to a new poll from Yale University, George Mason University and Climate Nexus, a nonprofit working to improve public understanding of climate change. [Disclosure: Climate Nexus and Nexus Media are both sponsored projects of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.]
“Public opinion research shows that Americans are growing increasingly worried about global warming,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. “What is interesting about this poll is that Americans are looking to new leaders to rise to the challenge. The federal government is no longer offering solutions. Americans want their governors, mayors and the business community to pick up the torch.”
The poll further finds that nearly 74 percent of Americans are “somewhat” or “very” worried about climate change, a result that is broadly consistent with research from Quinnipiac University, St. Leo University and Gallup — each of which found that worry about climate change has reached an all-time high in the last two years. Notably, there is a sizable divide between Democrats and Republicans on climate change, the latter group expressing significantly less concern about the problem.
Democrats and Republicans largely agree, however, that U.S. states should use more clean energy. Nearly eight in 10 Americans want their state to replace fossil fuels with wind and solar, while a little more than seven in 10 want their state government to commit to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Similar proportions support tax credits for rooftop solar panels and hybrid or electric vehicles.
“This poll shows that Americans are well-aware of the solutions to our air pollution and climate change problems, and are eager for their elected leaders to get on with the business of implementing clean energy solutions,” said Ed Maibach, director of the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. “This is a clear mandate for candidates and elected leaders to embrace a clean energy future for their city, state and our nation.”
Consistent with other polling, Americans believe the federal government — not cities and states — has the biggest responsibility to stem climate change. And, according to previous research, they believe the federal government is doing far too little. Americans oppose Trump’s rollback of federal fuel standards. And, overwhelmingly, they oppose his decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement.
The new poll finds that most Americans believe leaving the pact will hamper international efforts to stem climate change. This is a central concern of experts and advocates, who fear that Trump’s retreat on climate change will give countries permission to back away from the Paris Agreement, a trend that is already underway. Jerry Brown, along with state and local leaders from around the world, hopes to galvanize support for ambitious policy to tackle climate change at the summit in San Francisco this week.
“We all know that Donald Trump has declared war on every effort to stop global warming and that his congressional acolytes have abetted his insane crusade,” Brown wrote in an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle, which outlined the goals of the meeting. “Against the indifference of an entrenched global leadership, these delegates are demanding action now”