Two-thirds of Americans want more action on climate change, AP-NORC poll finds

Nearly two-thirds of Americans think the federal government is not doing enough to fight climate change, according to a new poll that shows limited public awareness of a sweeping new law that engages the United States at its biggest investment ever made to fight global warming.

Democrats in Congress approved the Cut Inflation Act in August, handing President Joe Biden a hard-fought triumph over priorities he hopes will boost the odds of retaining their majorities in the House and in the Senate in the November elections.

Biden and Democratic lawmakers touted the new law as a landmark achievement leading into the midterm elections, and environmental groups have spent millions to bolster the measure in battleground states. Yet the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll finds that 61% of American adults say they know little or nothing about it.

While the law has been widely hailed as the biggest investment in climate spending in history, 49% of Americans say it won’t make much of a difference on climate change, 33% say it will help and 14 % think it will do more harm. this.

The measure, which passed without a single Republican vote in both houses, offers nearly $375 billion in incentives to accelerate the expansion of clean energy such as wind and solar power, accelerating the transition from fossil fuels such as CL00 oil,
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coal and natural gas NG00,
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which largely cause climate change.

Combined with state and private sector spending, the law could help cut U.S. carbon emissions by about two-fifths by 2030 and reduce electricity emissions by up to 80%, advocates say.

Michael Katz, 84, of Temple, New Hampshire, said he thought Biden had “done an incredible job” as president. “I’m kind of in awe of what he’s done,” said Katz, a Democrat and retired photographer. Still, when asked for his opinion on the Inflation Reduction Act, Katz replied, “I don’t know about it.”

After learning about the law’s provisions, Katz said he supports increased spending on wind and solar power, as well as incentives to purchase electric vehicles.

Katz said he supports even tougher measures — such as restrictions on rebuilding in coastal areas damaged by Hurricane Ian or other storms — but doubts they will ever be approved.

“People want their dream come true: to live by the ocean in a big house,” he said.

Leah Stokes, professor of environmental policy at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said she was not surprised that the climate law was so little known, despite massive media coverage when it was debated at the Congress, endorsed and signed by Biden.

The law was passed over the summer, when people traditionally pay less attention to the news, “and it takes time to explain it”, especially since many provisions of the law are not yet to come into effect, Stokes said.

Biden and congressional Democrats “have done a lot for the climate,” she said, but must now focus on helping the public understand the law and “win the victory.”

Meredith McGroarty, a waitress from Pontiac, Michigan, said she knows little about the new law but supports increased climate action. “I have children that I leave to this world,” she said.

McGroarty, 40, a Democrat, urged Biden and other leaders to talk more about the “effects of the Climate Act on normal, everyday people. Let us know what happens some more.

Americans are generally more likely to support than oppose many government actions on climate change included in the law, the poll found. This includes incentives for electric vehicles and solar panels, although relatively few people say they are inclined to pursue either over the next three years.

About half of Americans think government action targeting businesses with restrictions is very important, the poll found, while about a third say so about restrictions on individuals. A majority of Americans, 62%, say businesses’ unwillingness to cut energy use is a major problem for efforts to reduce climate change, while about half say people who don’t want to reducing their energy consumption is a major problem.

Just over half also say that the fact that the energy industry is not doing enough to provide electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar is a major problem, and about half say the government is not investing enough in renewables.

Overall, 62% of American adults say the government is doing too little to reduce climate change, while 19% say it is doing too much and 18% think it is doing the right thing.

Democrats are more likely than others to think the federal government is doing too little on the climate: 79% say so, compared to 67% of independents and 39% of Republicans. About three-quarters of black and Hispanic Americans think there is too little action, compared to about half of white Americans.

And around three-quarters of adults under 45 think there is too little climate action, far more than around half of older people who think so.

Robert Stavins, professor of energy and economic development at Harvard Kennedy School, said it made sense for the government to step in to promote large-scale renewables.

“Individual action will not be enough in 10 or even 20 years,” he said. “You need government policies to create incentives for industry and individuals to move in a carbon-friendly direction.”

Americans want to own a car “and they’re not going to buy an expensive one,” Stavins said. The government must therefore reduce the costs of electric vehicles and encourage automakers to produce more electric vehicles, including the widespread availability of charging stations. Biden has set a goal of installing 500,000 charging stations across America under the Infrastructure Act of 2021.

When it comes to renewable energy, nearly two-thirds of American adults say offshore wind farms should be expanded, and about 6 in 10 say solar panel farms should be expanded. Biden moved to expand offshore wind and solar power as president.

Americans are divided on offshore drilling for oil and natural gas. About a third say these boreholes should be expanded, while about as many say they should be reduced; another third says neither.

Republicans were more likely than Democrats to favor expanding offshore drilling, 54% to 20%.

Teresa H. Sadler