Two-Thirds Of Americans Want Binding Deal At Climate Change Conference In Paris

People's Climate March in 2014, New York City. South Bend Voice/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The United Nations Climate Change Conference is underway in Paris amid an atmosphere of unprecedented global solidarity. Leaders from 147 nations and negotiators from 195 countries are now gathering in the French capital, hoping to hammer out a deal that will limit the global temperature rise to just 2°C (3.6°F). As the United States – the world’s second largest carbon emitter – is attending with the intent of reaching a deal, the Obama administration will be happy to know it has high levels of public support, with two out of three Americans supporting their country joining a binding agreement, as reported by The New York Times.

In the telephone survey conducted by both The New York Times and CBS News, 1,030 adults from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds with differing political affiliations were asked a series of questions relating to climate change and the upcoming conference.

The poll found that two-thirds of those surveyed supported the United States government in joining an international agreement to curb the increase of greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to this, 63 percent of Americans said that they would support any domestic policy limiting power plants’ carbon emissions.

The awareness of the urgency of taking action on dangerous climate change was also evident in the results: 50 percent think that it is a problem that is causing a serious impact now, as opposed to one that will only affect the future (25 percent) or will never have a serious impact (19 percent).

Fifty-three percent accept that the recent, historical temperature rises are caused by human activity. This is still remarkably low compared to other nations – in the United Kingdom, for example, the figure for the same statement is 84 percent.

The International Energy Agency recently highlighted that, if current trends continue, over a quarter of the world will be powered by renewable energy sources by 2020 – an unexpectedly high figure, mainly thanks to the fact that renewable energy is becoming increasingly cheap. With this in mind, 55 percent of those surveyed said that they would be willing to pay more for electricity if it came from renewable energy sources like solar or wind. 

Image credit: The talks are beginning in Paris this week. bensliman hassan/Shutterstock

However, the results show sharp divides along partisan lines: A slim majority of those who identify as Republican are opposed to a binding deal. This divide along party lines isn’t surprising: Those who consider themselves Republican overwhelmingly do not accept that recent, dangerous trends in the world’s climate are caused by humans, largely due to campaigns of misinformation and distrust of scientists. 

Strikingly, 54 percent of those surveyed said that protecting the environment is more important than stimulating the economy, when given those options as a binary choice. 

This survey provides a stark contrast to a recent, similar one conducted by GlobeScan. While surveying 1,000 people from 20 different countries, they discovered that only four out of 20 nations had a majority of the public demanding a strong deal at the conference in Paris – down from eight out of 20 when the survey was conducted in 2009.

GlobeScan hypothesized that the financial crisis of 2008 and its ongoing ramifications mean that people in 2015 are more focused on the economy, not the environment. This new survey, optimistically, suggests otherwise.

Top image credit: South Bend Voice/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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