Public Opinion and Climate Policy

Laser Talk

Question:  What does the public think about climate change and carbon pricing?

Answer:  People are getting the message that climate change is real and putting a price on carbon is a good way to address it.

In May 2020, two universities – Yale and George Mason – issued a report [1] showing that 73 percent of Americans agree global warming is happening, outnumbering those who don’t by 7 to 1. The number who attribute it to human activities has grown from 48 percent in 2014 to 62 percent in 2020, with only 29 percent still attributing it to natural cycles.

Yale University has also produced Climate Opinion Maps [2,3,4] using a statistical model to show how well people understand climate facts, risk, and policy right down to the state, county, and Congressional district level. Their latest (2019) results show a steady increase in climate concerns across the country.

On the policy side, Yale’s 2019 survey also showed that 66 percent of Americans favored a revenue-neutral plan to “require fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax,” with only 34 percent opposed. [4] That matches a 2014 poll from Stanford, the New York Times, and Resources for the Future [5] which found that requiring companies to pay a greenhouse gas tax and then giving “all this tax money … to all Americans equally” was favored by 67 percent to only 31 percent opposed.

While the specific poll language and methods differ, these reports show that the public approves of a policy that imposes a price on greenhouse gas emissions and then returns all of the money to American households.

  1. Leiserowitz, A., et al. “Climate Change in the American Mind.” Yale Program on Climate Change Communication & George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication (19 May 2020).
  2. Howe, P., et al. “Yale Climate Opinion Maps – U.S. 2014.” Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (6 Apr 2015).
  3. Marlon, J., et al. “Yale Climate Opinion Maps – U.S. 2016.” Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (2017).
  4. Marlon, J., et al. “Yale Climate Opinion Maps – U.S. 2019.” Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (Sep 2019).
  5. “Global Warming National Poll: Part III.” Resources for the Future (Apr 2015).

This page was updated on 07/06/20 20:44 CDT.

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