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America’s View On Climate Change Gets Influenced By Disasters: Poll

When climate change becomes “a problem in general but also specifically their problem, then people are going to have more ownership of it,” Swain said.

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Climate Change
This combination of Dec. 13 and 17, 2018 photos shows downtown Salt Lake City during clear and an inversion day. VOA

When it comes to their views on climate change, Americans are looking at natural disasters and their local weather, according to a new poll.

Lately, that means record deadly wildfires in California, rainfall by the foot in Houston when Hurricane Harvey hit and the dome of smog over Salt Lake City that engineer Caleb Gregg steps into when he walks out his door in winter.

“I look at it every day,” Gregg said from Salt Lake City, where winter days with some of the country’s worst air starting a few years ago dinged the city’s reputation as a pristine sports city and spurred state leaders to ramp up clean-air initiatives. “You look out and see pollution just sitting over the valley.”

“I’ve never really doubted climate change – in the last five-ish years it’s become even more evident, just by seeing the weather,” the 25-year-old said. “We know we’re polluting, and we know pollution is having an effect on the environment.”

Fire, CLimate Change, California, fossil fuels
Firefighters battle a wildfire as it threatens to jump a street near Oroville, California. VOA

The poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago finds 74 percent of Americans say extreme weather in the past five years — hurricanes, droughts, floods and heat waves — has influenced their opinions about climate change. That includes half of Americans who say these recent events have influenced their thinking a great deal or a lot.

About as many, 71 percent, said the weather they experience daily in their own areas has influenced their thinking about climate change science.

The survey was conducted in November, a few days before the federal government released a major report revving up scientific warnings about the impact of climate change, including the growing toll of extreme storms and droughts.

The share of Americans who said they think the climate is changing has held roughly steady over the last year — about 7 in 10 Americans think climate change is happening. Among those, 60 percent say climate change is caused mostly or entirely by humans, and another 28 percent think it’s about an equal mix of human activities and natural changes.

Overall, 9 percent of Americans said climate change is not happening, and another 19 percent said they were not sure.

Climate Change, hurricane michael, Storms
In this photograph released by the Sri Lankan Air Force media division on May 29, 2017, flooding is seen in the country’s Matara district. VOA

The poll finds Americans’ personal observations of real-time natural disasters and the weather around them have more impact than news stories or statements by religious or political leaders.

“It speaks to what we know of what people trust. They trust themselves and their own experiences,” said Heidi Roop, a climate scientist at the University of Washington’s Climate Impact Group who focuses on the science of climate change communication.

For a long time, the idea that the acrid black billows from car and truck tailpipes and power plant smokestacks were altering the earth’s atmosphere still seemed abstract, with any impacts decades away.

“With the extreme events that we’ve been seeing, we’re increasingly able to attribute, or pull out, how human-caused climate change is making those more severe,” Roop said.

When wildfires get bigger and more frequent, floods bigger and smog more entrenched, it begins to hit “the things that we all hold dear, and that’s when people get affected and begin to connect the dots,” Roop said.

But a minority of Americans still connect to different dots: While the poll finds most of those who believe in climate change say it’s caused by human activity or an equal mix of human activity and natural causes, roughly 1 in 10 attribute climate change to natural changes in the environment.

Hurricane, climate change, disasters, U.S., economic, storms
Floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey overflow from Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston, Texas, VOA

In West Haven, Connecticut, 69-year-old Alan Perkins says he can see the climate is in fact changing — the Atlantic beaches a few blocks from his house are about a third smaller than when he used to play on the sand as a kid, Perkins said by phone. Scientists say climate change will mean warming oceans expand and waves get rougher, eating away at shorelines.

“I see erosion along our shorelines. Our beaches are getting smaller. I see that,” Perkins said.

“I’m just not sure exactly how much we can do about that. I think nature takes care of a lot of it. Like when it rains it cleans the air. I think nature kind of takes care of itself,” Perkins said. “A lot of it is just in God’s hands, and he’s in control.”

Elizabeth Renz, a 62-year-old homemaker in Cincinnati, says the rise in temperatures globally and the surge in natural disasters in the United States is “just happening naturally.”

“Our earth is cycling through it, and I don’t know there’s much we can do about it,” she said.

She points to communities expanding into deserts and other unwelcoming terrain.

“We’re living in areas that we shouldn’t be living in,” she said.

Climate Change, Hurricanes
Russ Lewis covers his eyes from a gust of wind and a blast of sand as Hurricane Florence approaches Myrtle Beach, S.C.. VOA

The poll shows Americans are ready to pay more to deal with the changing climate — but not to pay very much.

A majority of Americans, 57 percent, would support a proposal that would add a $1 monthly fee to their electricity bills to combat climate change. But most oppose proposals that would increase their own monthly costs by $10 or more.

The poll also examined views on one of the Trump administration’s proposals to roll back future mileage standards for cars and light trucks. That would hit one of the Obama administration’s key efforts to reduce climate-changing fossil fuel emissions.

When told the proposal to freeze standards could lower the cost of vehicles — the Trump administration’s argument for the rollback — 49 percent said they support the proposal, compared with 17 percent who were opposed. Another third said they neither support nor oppose.

But when the question suggested the freeze could mean greenhouse gas emissions would not be reduced, 45 percent said they oppose the proposal, compared with 21 percent who were in favor.

Also Read: U.S. Proposes Price Tag For CO2 Emissions From Cars

The poll also found majorities of Americans would support a tax on emissions of carbon-based fuels, such as coal, natural gas and oil, if the money generated were used to fund research and development for renewable energy (59 percent), to restore forests and wetlands (67 percent) or to boost public transportation (54 percent).

For Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the willingness of Americans to pay at least some extra money to tackle climate change is “actually still a pretty strong signal.”

When climate change becomes “a problem in general but also specifically their problem, then people are going to have more ownership of it,” Swain said. (VOA)

Next Story

Donald Trump to Declare ‘Emergency’, Use Military Funds for Mexico Border Wall

He will sign a border security bill to avert a government shutdown, but also act to bypass Congress and use military funds for the wall, a statement said.

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Donald Trump
R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills blasted Carpe Donktum and Trump on Saturday. Pixabay

US President Donald Trump will declare a national emergency to fund his planned border wall with Mexico, the White House has said.

He will sign a border security bill to avert a government shutdown, but also act to bypass Congress and use military funds for the wall, a statement said.

Senior Democrats have responded by accusing him of committing a “gross abuse of power” and a “lawless act”, the BBC reported on Friday.

The Congress passed the bill on Thursday which does not meet Trump’s demands for wall funding. It now has to be signed by the President to become law.

 

Donald Trump, Mexico
Senior Democrats have responded by accusing him of committing a “gross abuse of power” and a “lawless act”. VOA

The compromise legislation passed by Congress includes $1.3 billion in funding for border security, including physical barriers, but it does not allot money towards the border wall for which Trump had wanted $5.7 billion.

“The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Thursday.

She added he would “take other executive action – including a national emergency – to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border”.

Speaking on the Senate floor on Thursday, however, Republican leader Mitch McConnell indicated his support for the move, saying the President was taking action with “whatever tools he can legally use to enhance his efforts to secure the border”.

In a 83-16 vote, the Senate on Thursday passed the border security bill. The House of Representatives later also backed the measure, by 300 to 128.

 

US, Donald Trump
“The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said. VOA

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has already suggested a legal challenge from Democrats should the President make an emergency declaration.

She and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer also issued a joint statement condemning the move.

 

ALSO READ: Mexico Announced to Relocate Central American Migrants, 4 People Injured

“Declaring a national emergency would be a lawless act, a gross abuse of the power of the presidency and a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that President Trump broke his core promise to have Mexico pay for his wall,” they said.

Republicans fear this will set a precedent for presidential power that Democrats can someday use to circumvent the will of Congress. (IANS)