Skip to main content

More Americans believe in climate change but still can’t quit fossil fuels

More Americans believe in climate change but still can’t quit fossil fuels

/

‘The divide between attitudes and action’

Share this story

Activists demand senate pass ‘Green New Deal’ Resolution
Activists outside demanding a vote to pass ‘The Green New Deal’ in Washington, D.C. March 26, 2019.
Photo by Aurora Samperio/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Nearly two-thirds of Americans now believe that climate change is an urgent problem to address, but they aren’t nearly as enthusiastic about giving up oil and gas, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.

Only one-third of people surveyed supported completely phasing out fossil fuels. Less than half of respondents are okay with phasing out new gas-powered vehicles. Taking those steps might seem drastic, considering fossil fuels currently make up about 80 percent of the US energy mix. But phasing out most, if not all, fossil fuels is pretty much in line with what’s needed to meet the scale of the climate crisis, according to climate experts.

Now that many Americans are taking the threats posed by climate change seriously, the next hurdle for climate activists and policymakers is getting more of them on board for the swift action it will take to limit the damage.

“Attitudes towards climate change are hardly a predictor of policy support”

“This is the divide between attitudes and action,” says Chenyang Xiao, a sociology professor at American University who studies environmental beliefs. “Attitudes towards climate change are hardly a predictor of policy support or pro-environmental actions.”

A more gradual shift away from fossil fuels may be something most Americans can get on board with. About 70 percent of people surveyed agreed that future fossil fuel expansion should take a back seat to developing alternative energy sources.

Greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels need to drop dramatically by the middle of the century, according to leading climate scientists. They’re aiming for “net-zero” — the point where global emissions match up with the amount of greenhouse gases removed from the atmosphere, after making major reductions to fossil fuel use. Otherwise, say goodbye to 99 percent of the world’s coral reefs and hello to more extreme heat, hunger, and flooded coastlines. In most scenarios, meeting the net-zero goal involves using less energy and swapping out most or all fossil fuels for renewables like wind and solar or carbon-free energy like nuclear. 

There’s a little more allowance for continued emissions from heavy industry like steel and for ships and planes that are hard to electrify. Those sources of pollution might be paired with emerging technologies that can capture and store the planet-heating CO2 they produce. But reaching net-zero greenhouse gas pollution requires no new fossil fuel development past 2021 and no more sales of gas-powered vehicles past 2035, a major report from the International Energy Agency recently found.

Political affiliations are the biggest driving factor behind the beliefs people have of climate change

Unfortunately, attitudes toward climate change and environmental policy in the US don’t tend to be influenced by actual science and data. Historically, political affiliations are the biggest driving factor behind the beliefs people have of climate change. But in the last couple decades, Americans have swung further left politically — although they might consider themselves “moderates” rather than “liberals,” according to Xiao. That could be why a growing number of people are at least taking climate change seriously, even after years of disinformation from fossil fuel industries and the politicians they bankroll.

A little over a year ago, 52 percent of Americans saw climate change as a top priority. That’s now up to 64 percent of the 13,749 adults that the Pew Research Center surveyed in April. Xiao also says that most people now have a better understanding of climate change than they have in the past. Nearly a third of people surveyed who use social media said that they’ve engaged with content about climate change on the platforms they use — including following accounts focused on climate action and posting about climate change on their own accounts.

“It used to be a small majority [that saw climate change as a top priority and] now, it’s a strong majority. I’m hopeful this kind of change can amount to the point that we may be able to start a social movement,” Xiao says.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 60 minutes ago Not just you

E
Twitter
Emma Roth60 minutes ago
Rihanna’s headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Apple Music’s set to sponsor the Halftime Show next February, and it’s starting out strong with a performance from Rihanna. I honestly can’t remember which company sponsored the Halftime Show before Pepsi, so it’ll be nice to see how Apple handles the show for Super Bowl LVII.


E
Twitter
Emma RothTwo hours ago
Starlink is growing.

The Elon Musk-owned satellite internet service, which covers all seven continents including Antarctica, has now made over 1 million user terminals. Musk has big plans for the service, which he hopes to expand to cruise ships, planes, and even school buses.

Musk recently said he’ll sidestep sanctions to activate the service in Iran, where the government put restrictions on communications due to mass protests. He followed through on his promise to bring Starlink to Ukraine at the start of Russia’s invasion, so we’ll have to wait and see if he manages to bring the service to Iran as well.


E
External Link
Emma Roth5:52 PM UTC
We might not get another Apple event this year.

While Apple was initially expected to hold an event to launch its rumored M2-equipped Macs and iPads in October, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicts Apple will announce its new devices in a series of press releases, website updates, and media briefings instead.

I know that it probably takes a lot of work to put these polished events together, but if Apple does pass on it this year, I will kind of miss vibing to the livestream’s music and seeing all the new products get presented.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.


Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
A
Youtube
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.


A
The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.