The following post is by Ken Levenson, guest blogger at Climate Progress.


At least 7 in 10 say say they are trying to reduce their carbon footprint. That’s according to a new ABC News/Planet Green/Stanford University poll released this month.

carbon footprintYes, this headline appears very much a result of higher gasoline prices:

59 percent say they’re using less gasoline — driving less, using smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, carpooling, taking mass transit and the like.

Yet it goes beyond just gasoline:

60 percent, also say they’re cutting their consumption of power (and water).

Let’s dig in and run through some of the numbers:

Of those reducing:
25 percent — mainly to save money
33 percent — environmental reasons
41 percent — combination of money and environment

The sweet spot is undoubtedly the twofer — money and environment. While I’ve heard some argue that we should be careful not to dilute the environmental message with ideas of economic self interest, a.k.a. saving money — it seems a no-brainer that the economic benefits for average families are potentially substantial and fully exploiting that fact is imperative. We’ll all be conservatives!

Of those not reducing:
54 percent plus — “say it’s unnecessary, too expensive, too inconvenient, won’t do any good, or that they just aren’t interested”
22 percent of those not reducing say they’re not trying because they’re not sure of what to do.

Like the 28 percent still supporting Bush, some are never going to come around — best to write them off and not be distracted by them. However for the 22 percent not knowing what to do we must make sure they are reached and helped to engage. Far beyond what “We” and 1Sky and other great privately run public awareness groups are capable of, a big federally-financed, public awareness and education campaign is a must.

On the global warming threat:
61 percent — say it’s not a threat in their lifetime — if nothing is done about it (reduced from 69 percent in 1997)
73 percent — say it will be a threat in their children’s lifetime — if nothing is done (no previous polling data shown)
81 percent — say it will be a threat to future generations (up 2 points from 2005)

It seems a safe bet, perhaps, that as more people come to think that climate change threatens their children’s and even their own generation, more will take action to reduce their carbon footprints. I’m now 41 — so in 2050, health-willing, I’ll be 83, and my daughter will be 43. And at the rate of things, it’s going to be very bad in 2050. The federally-financed, public awareness and education campaign must flip the first number and push it to 75 percent saying it will threaten their generation. (Again the last 25 percent are “Bush dead-enders.”)

Attitudes toward policy approaches:
78 percent — support stricter fuel efficiency standards for cars
59 percent — support Cap/Trade
74 percent — support Cap/Trade when told similar approach succeeded against acid rain
68 percent — support U.S. action even if other countries do less

Heartening numbers, particularly the last. The new administration needs to run with them.

Likely economic effects of addressing global warming:
33 percent — say will help U.S. economy
32 percent — say will hurt U.S. economy

I’m not sure how these numbers add-up, but the idea that there’s a split is not surprising and to me, heartening as well. Public education and effective implementation that demonstrate the economic benefits should drag the numbers into a clearly supporting position.

On the not so good side:
63 percent — favor expanding offshore oil drilling
55 percent — favor wilderness area drilling

Only 44 percent favor building more nuclear. Split by party: 60 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of Democrats favoring.

If not great, not surprising either. I think Obama’s approach to these is basically correct. Use them as bargaining chips to secure the real action that is going to meaningfully address the problem there we move beyond the stalling and get to work.

Meta:
25 percent — say global warming is the biggest environmental problem (down 8 points from 2007. First, how could this number be going down? And how could it be so ridiculously low, period? )
80 percent — say global warming is occurring (down 5 points from 2006 — how could this too possibly be going down? Maybe see here.)
50 percent — reduction in global warming news stories in month prior to poll, from same period in 2007. (Shocking, right?)
47 percent — trust scientists’ statements regarding climate
49 percent — don’t trust scientists’ statements regarding climate

(I believe in always retaining a healthy skepticism but these numbers are ridiculous.)

I think these last numbers are a testament to the power of FoxNews, Rush Limbaugh and the Right Wing Noise Machine and their campaign, well-coordinated with the GOP, to confuse, disinform, and generally, as Stephen Colbert so deftly reveals, celebrate ignorance. They’ve cowed members of the Fourth Estate into not fulfilling their civic responsibility to inform our citizens. All around it is shameful.

So as not to close on a sour note: I think the take away must be that despite the Right Wing Noise Machine’s best efforts, there is apparently broad support for meaningful public policy action to tackle the threat — with 68 percent supporting U.S. action even if other countries do less. That is hopeful indeed.

This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.