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Most Americans back climate legislation

global warming

Pace of global warming ‘speeding up’

President Joe Biden heads to a vital U.N. climate summit at a time when a majority of Americans regard the deteriorating climate as a problem of high importance to them, an increase from just a few years ago.

About six out of 10 Americans also believe that the pace of global warming is speeding up, according to a new survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.

As Biden struggles to pass significant climate legislation at home ahead of next week’s U.N. climate summit, the new AP-NORC/EPIC poll also shows that 55 percent of Americans want Congress to pass a bill to ensure that more of the nation’s electricity comes from clean energy and less from climate-damaging coal and natural gas.

“Climate change is becoming a more pressing issue for many Americans,” said Jennifer Benz, deputy director of the  AP-NORC Center. “More Americans consider climate change personally important to them compared to three years ago, and three-quarters of the public report taking personal actions to try and combat it.”

Only 16 percent of Americans oppose such a measure for electricity from cleaner energy. A similar measure initially was one of the most important parts of climate legislation that Biden has before Congress. But Biden’s proposal to reward utilities with clean energy sources and penalize those without ran into objections from a coal-state senator, Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, leaving fellow Democrats scrambling to come up with other ways to slash pollution from burning fossil fuels

After President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, the Biden administration hoped to help negotiate major emissions cuts globally to slow the rise of temperatures. But it’s unclear whether Biden will be able to get any significant climate legislation through Congress before the U.N. summit starts Sunday.

In all, 59 percent of Americans said the Earth’s warming is very or extremely important to them as an issue, up from 49 percent in 2018. Fifty-four percent of Americans cited scientists’ voices as having a large amount of influence on their views about climate change, and nearly as many, 51 percent, said their views were influenced by recent extreme weather events like hurricanes, deadly heat spells, wildfires and other natural disasters around the world.

Over the last 60 years, the pollution pumped out by gasoline and diesel engines, power plants and other sources has changed the climate and warmed the Earth by 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit, making the extremes of weather even more extreme.

Seventy-five percent of Americans believe that climate change is happening, while 10 percent believe that it is not, the poll found. Another 15 percent are unsure.

Among those who say it is happening, 54 percent say that it’s caused mostly or entirely by human activities compared to just 14 percent who think — incorrectly, scientists say — that it’s caused mainly by natural changes in the environment. Another 32 percent of Americans believe it’s a mix of human and natural factors.

And while Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say climate change is happening, majorities of both parties agree that it is. That breaks down to 89 percent of Democrats and and 57 percent of Republicans.

The poll also gauged Americans’ willingness to pay for the cost of cutting climate-wrecking pollution as well as mitigating its consequences.

Fifty-two percent said they would support a $1 a month carbon fee on their energy bill to fight climate change, but support dwindles as the fee increases.

When asked about their support for a nationwide fee on carbon emissions, the data indicate that Americans on average are willing to pay $40 a month for the fee, up from $27 a month when asked a similar question in 2018.  For context, this is roughly equal to a carbon price of $30 per ton—double the $15 carbon price being debated in the senate and more than the project cost of previously proposed policies that would have cost the average household about 15 per month.

Regarding transportation emissions—the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions—around half would support a variety of policies polled to transition to electric vehicles. Americans are more likely to support tax incentives or cash rebates to encourage more people to buy electric vehicles.

The AP-NORC poll of 5,468 adults was conducted from Sept. 8 to 24 using a combined sample of interviews from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population, and interviews from opt-in online panels. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 1.7 percentage points. The AmeriSpeak panel is recruited randomly using address-based sampling methods, and respondents later were interviewed online or by phone.