Majority in US concerned about climate, blame oil firms: polls

The data comes as President Joe Biden has struggled to pass climate change legislation and before UN’s COP 26.

A climate change demonstrator protests in the US Capitol in Washington, DC [File: J Scott Applewhite/The Associated Press]

A majority of people living in the United States view climate change as an issue of a high priority, and many blame big oil firms, according to two new polls.

The polls released on Tuesday came as US President Joe Biden has struggled to find enough support among his Democratic colleagues to pass a sweeping social package that would take unprecedented steps to combat climate change.

They also came before world leaders will descend upon Glasgow, Scotland next week for the United Nations Climate summit, COP26.

On Tuesday, speaking at the launch of the UN’s latest damning climate report, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters that time is running out to cut greenhouse gas emissions to avert global warming that could damage the planet.

“The clock is ticking,” he said in New York. “The emissions gap is the result of a leadership gap. But leaders can still make this a turning point to a greener future instead of a tipping point to climate catastrophe.”

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago poll found that 55 percent of Americans wants the US legislature to pass a bill that would increase the proportion of US electricity generated from clean energy sources. Only 16 percent of those polled explicitly opposed such a legislative measure.

More broadly, the poll suggested that about 59 percent of Americans rate climate change as very or extremely important to them, up from 49 percent in 2018.

Meanwhile, 75 percent of those polled said they believe that climate change is happening, with just 10 percent saying it is not. Overall, 55 percent of those polled said they believe climate change is caused mostly or entirely by humans.

A separate poll released on Tuesday, conducted by YouGov and commissioned by the Guardian, Vice News, and Covering Climate Now, indicated that 60 percent of Americans believed that oil and gas companies were “completely or mostly” responsible for climate change.

About 57 percent of those polled said that oil and gas companies should pay for damages caused by extreme weather, while 60 percent said those companies should pay to upgrade infrastructure to make it more resilient to extreme weather.

The polls indicate increasing public pressure on energy companies, who have faced a number of climate change-related legislation from local and state governments across the US.

The UN’s report released on Tuesday offered another bleak assessment of the global fight against climate change.

It found that current pledges by countries to cut emissions are not strict enough to prevent exceeding a 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature increase by the end of the century.

If countries fully implement their current “net-zero” emissions goals by 2050, the emissions increase could be kept to 2.2 degrees Celsius, it said. That is the more modest target set by the Paris Climate Accord.

However, the report noted that many countries have remained vague on how they plan to achieve their pledges, casting doubt on how seriously they are approaching the challenge.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies