Pollster American Environics studied American attitudes toward energy and the environment and found depressing results:
1) Americans overwhelmingly believe that global warming is occurring.
2) They don't care. "dealing with global warming" came 20th out of 23 policy priorities.
3) They won't give anything up. The cost of energy is more important than global warming.
As the graph shows, 69 percent of the public is prepared to overlook disagreement about the environment and there are six issues that rate ahead of the environment in terms of the number of people who consider them dealbreakers.
Among Republicans global warming rates DFL, and among Democrats, 17.
It is beyond depressing; notwithstanding all of our blogging, writing, movie making and politicking, the inconvenient truth is that we are getting nowhere. The report concludes:
The dramatic increase in media coverage of global warming in 2006 and 2007 has not made global warming a high priority for voters. Despite the unprecedented coverage of global warming, the issue remains a relatively low priority compared to other national issues. It is also a low priority compared with other energy issues. This could become important if action on this relatively low priority issue is perceived as raising energy prices.
Coupling global warming with energy independence, higher gas prices, and national security increases the issue's saliency. While global warming and energy are inextricably intertwined at a policy level, most voters do not see energy through an environmental lens. Action on global warming and energy independence rank as a higher priority concern than "strengthening the military and keeping America safe," according to Democracy Corps in March 2007.
Concerns over higher energy costs could undercut action on energy or global warming.
Americans tend to view energy as consumers and are extremely sensitive to the cost of energy. For this reason they steadfastly reject policies that increase the cost of gasoline or electricity in order to encourage conservation. Any public policy responses that have the effect of increasing energy costs rather than decreasing energy costs will likely exacerbate the high levels of energy cost anxiety felt by Americans. The rejection of Proposition 87 by California voters in November 2006 is a cautionary tale.
Download PDF of American Environics Report here