Yale Research Finds Significant Shift in Public Attitudes Toward Global Warming

A new Yale research survey has found 83 percent of Americans now say global warming is a "serious" problem, up from 70 percent in 2004.

More Americans than ever say they have serious concerns about environmental threats, such as toxic soil and water (92 percent, up from 85 percent in 2004), deforestation (89 percent, up from 78 percent), air pollution (93 percent, up from 87 percent) and the extinction of wildlife (83 percent, up from 72 percent in 2005).

The survey of 1,000 adults nationwide indicates that 63 percent of Americans agree that the United States "is in as much danger from environmental hazards, such as air pollution and global warming, as it is from terrorists." The results, released on March 20, reveals growing concern about dependence on Middle Eastern oil, with 96 percent of the public saying this is a serious problem. As a result, the public overwhelmingly supports increasing the use of alternative energy, including solar and wind power, as well as investing more in energy efficiency, researchers said.

Dan Esty, director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, which commissioned the survey, says the United States is in the midst of a "revolution," in which the business community is embracing the profit potential of a burgeoning green consumer movement. Frustrated with the limits of government action, the public increasingly wants business to solve environmental problems.

The results further suggest that many Americans want greener products and are ready to spend money to try new technologies that will help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Seventy percent of the public indicates a willingness to buy solar panels, and 67 percent would consider buying a hybrid car. These numbers suggest that the growing number of companies that see market opportunities in providing climate-change solutions -- alternative energy, "cleantech" products and energy efficiency -- may be on the right track.

The survey also suggests that the public's reasons for wanting investments in alternative energy and action on climate change vary widely. For some, concern stems from the rising cost of gasoline (Forty-nine percent of the public sees this as a very serious issue.). Others want the nation to be free of imported oil (93 percent). Forty-three percent believe that preventing global warming is a religious duty.

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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