By Joel Makower
April is upon us, and among the things springing forth is the annual crop of public opinion polls tracking Americans’ attitudes on environmental issues.
This year, I’ve resurrected what used to be an annual exercise for me, at least between 2007 and 2015: Combing the latest surveys to glean insights about how public attitudes on environmental issues, and climate change in particular, may be shifting.
Why did I stop? The survey results became numbingly repetitive: Yes, most Americans are concerned about air and water quality, climate change and other issues. Yes, they want to work for and buy from companies that they perceive to be proactive on these issues. Yes, they are willing to make personal changes in the name of protecting the planet. But no, they don’t want to pay more or suffer (m)any inconveniences when doing so.
The Green New Deal proposed by some progressive Democrats may not be making much progress, but some of its key provisions are gaining in popularity.
Gallup found general support for dramatically reducing fossil fuel use over the next two decades. Six in 10 U.S. adults say they would “favor” or “strongly favor” policies with this energy goal, while fewer than four in 10 say they would oppose them.
Similarly, a poll by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago and the AP-NORC Center found that two-thirds of Americans support a carbon tax if the proceeds were used for environmental restoration, and more than half support it if the funds were used towards research and development for renewable energy programs and public transportation. Fifty-seven percent of Americans said they are willing to pay a $1 monthly fee; 23 percent are willing to pay $40 a month.