Earth Day 2022: America’s view on climate change, renewable energy

Protesters advocate for carbon neutrality during a Keep the Promise rally in Bloomington, Indiana, in March 2021. (Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

On April 22, people around the world commemorate Earth Day with events that highlight various environmental issues, especially global climate change.

To mark the occasion, here is what a recent Pew Research Center survey found about Americans’ views on climate change and renewable energy sources.

The data for this post was taken from several Pew Research Center surveys. Most of the findings come from the Center’s survey of 10,237 US adults conducted from January 24 to 30, 2022.

Everyone who took part in the survey was a member of the American Trends Panel (ATP) Center, an online survey panel recruited through a nationwide random sampling of residential addresses. This allows nearly all US adults the opportunity to vote. Surveys are weighted to represent the US adult population by sex, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education, and other categories. Read more about the ATP methodology.

About four in ten US adults (42%) say tackling climate change should be a top priority for President Joe Biden and Congress to address this year, according to a Center survey conducted in January 2022. While fewer Americans rate dealing with climate change as a top priority than saying the same about the 17 other issues in the survey, Democrats and those under 30 are more likely to see it than Americans. other. as top priority.

Bar chart showing that Democrats and young Americans identify tackling climate change as a top policy priority

About two-thirds of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents (65%) say tackling climate change should be a top priority for Biden and Congress, compared with just 11% of Republicans and the more skewed GOP.

A majority 54% of adults under 30 say global climate change should be a top priority, compared to a minority of Americans aged 30 to 49 (42%), ages 50 to 64 (36%) and ages 65 and older (39% ) .

The bar chart shows that 46% of Americans say human activities are a major contributor to climate change and 29% say some

Three-quarters of Americans say that human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, contribute to climate change at least in part, with 46% saying it contributes greatly, a separate January 2022 Center survey found. About a quarter of Americans (24%) say burning fossil fuels and other human activities contribute little or nothing to climate change. Views on this question have remained largely stable in recent years.

Democrats and Republicans have very different views on this topic. Most Democrats say human activity is a major contributor to climate change (71%), while only 17% of Republicans say the same. A larger share of Republicans said human activity contributed to climate change (39%) or contributed little or nothing (44%).

Bar chart showing that Democrats and Republicans disagree about the impact of climate change policies on the economy and the environment

Americans generally view policies aimed at mitigating the effects of global climate change as good for the environment, but are divided over whether they help the economy, according to the same January 2022 survey. A minority of Americans (56%) say that policies aimed at tackling climate change generally do more good than harm the environment. Only 18% said they were generally more harmful, and 24% said these policies made no difference to the environment.

Nearly as many Americans said these policies generally helped the US economy and hurt it (37% and 35%), respectively, while 27% said they thought these policies made no difference to the economy. The share of Americans who say climate policies are helping the US economy has risen 7 percentage points over the past four years, driven by more positive assessments among Democrats.

Bar chart showing majority favoring US taking steps to become carbon neutral by 2050

In terms of specific policies, 69% of US adults support the United States taking steps to become carbon neutral by 2050 – that is, not releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than it emits, January 2022 survey found. About three in ten Americans (28%) say they oppose this policy. Carbon neutrality has become a key component of the Biden administration’s climate and energy policy agenda.

Again, there is a wide gap between the partisans. Most Democrats (90%) support the US taking steps to become carbon neutral by 2050. In contrast, slightly more than half (53%) of Republicans oppose this goal, while 44% support it.

Bar chart showing that the majority prioritize alternative energy development and support the US move to become carbon neutral

About seven out of ten Americans (69%) prioritize developing alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar, over expanding production of oil, coal and natural gas, according to the same survey, which was conducted before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the rise in prices of gasoline and other energy. Three in ten Americans say expanding exploration and production of oil, coal, and natural gas should be a more important priority than developing alternative energy sources.

Most Americans don’t want to see fossil fuels completely removed from the US energy supply. Two-thirds of adults said the country should use a mix of fossil fuels and renewable energy sources, while about a third (31%) said the country should stop using oil, coal and natural gas completely.

Bar chart showing that the two party coalitions have internal differences over energy policy

Ideological gaps exist in both partisan coalitions over some energy policies, January 2022 survey found. In the GOP, for example, a third of conservative Republicans and GOP supporters support the US taking steps to become carbon neutral, while 64% oppose it. Among moderate and liberal Republicans, on the other hand, the opinion is the opposite: 66% support this goal, while 32% oppose it.

There are similar ideological differences among Democrats on the balance between fossil fuels and renewable energy. About six in ten liberal Democrats (63%) say the US should phase out fossil fuels completely, compared with 36% who prefer the country to use a mix of fossil fuels and renewables. Among moderate and conservative Democrats, by comparison, 37% support the US eliminating fossil fuels completely, compared with 61% who prefer a mix of fossil fuels and renewables.

Three-quarters of Americans support US participation in international efforts to help reduce the impact of climate change, January 2022 survey found. About a quarter of Americans (24%) are against this.

Bar chart showing that three-quarters of Americans support US participation in international climate change efforts

There is little consensus on whether the US has a responsibility to provide financial assistance to help developing countries build renewable energy sources as part of international efforts to mitigate the effects of global climate change. About six in ten US adults (59%) say the US does not have this responsibility, while 39% say it does.

Going forward, about half of Americans (53%) say it is unlikely that countries around the world, including the US, will collectively do enough to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, the same January survey showed. A smaller share (36%) said collective action globally would likely be sufficient to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, while another 10% said they did not see climate change impacts as a problem.

Bar chart showing that 53% think the US and other countries are unlikely to do enough to avoid the worst impacts of climate change

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