Californians have long been ahead of the pack in their support of climate policies, but in new polling, a "record-high majority" of California voters support immediate action by state and federal governments to arrest global warming and prepare for climate impacts.
According to the poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, most respondents (63 percent) believe those impacts are already being felt, and three-in-four (75 percent) support taking "steps to counter the effects of global warming right away." PPIC analysts say that represents a spike of nine percentage points since its 2012 survey. About the same proportion consider the threat of global warming to be at least "somewhat serious." Support for immediate climate action continues to track significantly higher among Democrats than Republicans, though the gap may be narrowing.
California already has some of the nation's most aggressive climate policies, with the legislated goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and a mandate that utilities draw one-third of their electrical power from renewable sources by the same year.
Though the rest of the nation has generally lagged behind California in its enthusiasm for climate action, most results from the PPIC poll would appear to reflect a general gathering of momentum toward policies to cope with climate change. President Obama, who had gone silent on climate for most of his first term, has vowed to sidestep Congress if that's what it takes to tackle the climate problem. And this week, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency kicked off a road show to stump for climate action, by saying that carbon-cutting policies will gun the nation's economic engine, rather than stall it. Surprisingly, in the PPIC poll, less than half of Californians appear to agree (see "Economy," below).
Among the perceived threats from climate change, some loom larger than others in the minds of Californians. According to the PPIC survey, 57 percent are "very concerned" about more voracious wildfires, and 78 percent are at least "somewhat concerned" that droughts will become more severe. There seemed to be more confusion over a changing climate's effects on flooding and storms, where responses were more evenly distributed from "very concerned" to "not at all."