Pew Priorities 2009

At first glance, the latest poll numbers from Pew Research Center on Americans’ top priorities for the new president might appear worrisome to climate policy advocates.

Global warming is in last place in the top 20, and the environment in general slipped down in the list since last year. Andrew Revkin over at New York Times‘ Dot Earth blog goes so far as to say, “America and President Barack Obama are completely out of sync on human-caused global warming.” (There are some startling new numbers from Rasmussen on that question …)

But I’m convinced that’s not the point. The fact is, solutions that will address the top two concerns — the economy and jobs — as well as several other top 10 concerns — energy, terrorism, helping the poor — are all wrapped up in the best solutions for combating climate change.

The fossil-fuel roller coaster has long whiplashed family budgets, and our economy remains shackled to its adrenaline-boosting unpredictability. Any economic recovery we muster in coming months will sputter if we fail to reduce our fossil-fuel dependence. As soon as the economy rebounds, oil prices are sure to shoot up again, negating the economic gains that we’ve made.

Our job now — and Obama’s — is to encourage fellow lawmakers and citizens to connect the dots and stop seeing the economy, energy policy, and the environment as even vaguely separate issues.