The majority of Americans do believe that Earth’s climate is warming and they want the government to take action, according to Stanford Professor Jon Krosnick and his Political Psychology Research Group, but they still don’t want to pay higher taxes. These findings echo Breakthrough’s own social values research demonstrating strong public support for large-scale federal investment in clean energy R&D and greater support for carbon limits when they are coupled with policies, like public investment, that make clean energy cheaper.
Krosnick writes in the New York Times:
Fully 86 percent of our respondents said they wanted the federal government to limit the amount of air pollution that businesses emit, and 76 percent favored government limiting business’s emissions of greenhouse gases in particular. Not a majority of 55 or 60 percent — but 76 percent.
Large majorities opposed taxes on electricity (78 percent) and gasoline (72 percent) to reduce consumption. But 84 percent favored the federal government offering tax breaks to encourage utilities to make more electricity from water, wind and solar power.
And huge majorities favored government requiring, or offering tax breaks to encourage, each of the following: manufacturing cars that use less gasoline (81 percent); manufacturing appliances that use less electricity (80 percent); and building homes and office buildings that require less energy to heat and cool (80 percent).
Thus, there is plenty of agreement about what people do and do not want government to do.
But as Roger Pielke Jr. points out on his blog:
[T]he battle for public opinion on climate change has been won by those who argue that there is a profound human influence on climate and action is warranted. This has been the message of opinion polls for as long as 20 years.
As Breakthrough and Pielke have pointed out, and Krosnick’s findings support, the climate policy debate should not center on the existence of climate change but instead on constructing policies, like massive public investment to make clean energy cheaper, that line up with what the public consistently supports.