A growing number of Americans describe climate change as a crisis, and two-thirds say President Donald Trump is doing too little to tackle the problem.
The results, from a poll conducted by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), point to a growing disconnect between Americans worried about the warming planet and Trump administration officials, who have aggressively scaled back Obama-era environmental rules and relinquished the nation’s role as a global leader in pushing for climate action.
The poll found that a strong majority of Americans — about 8 in 10 — say that human activity is fueling climate change, and roughly half believe action is urgently needed within the next decade if humanity is to avert the worst effects of climate change. Nearly 4 in 10 now say climate change is a “crisis,” up from less than a quarter five years ago.
“I am deathly afraid, not for my kids, but for my kids’ kids and what they will have to deal with,” said Mechaella DeRicci, 50, a respiratory care practitioner in Bristol, Conn. “What are we leaving as a legacy besides a hot mess?”
Though Americans are increasingly worried about climate change, fewer than 4 in 10 say they believe that tackling the problem will require them to make “major sacrifices.” And most are unwilling to pay for it out of their own pockets.
For example, while nearly half of adults say they would be willing to pay a $2 monthly tax on their electricity bills to help combat climate change, just over a quarter say they are willing to pay $10 extra each month. And while two-thirds support stricter fuel-efficiency standards for the nation’s vehicles, increases in the gas tax are deeply unpopular.
Instead, clear majorities say they would prefer that climate initiatives be funded by increasing taxes on wealthy households and on companies that burn fossil fuels.
The Post-KFF poll comes at a moment when the globe already has warmed more than 1 degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution, and scientists say the world is heading toward catastrophic effects unless humans act quickly to slash their emissions of carbon dioxide. Major nations around the globe, with the exception of the United States, have pledged to work together to combat climate change as part of the Paris accord signed in 2015, but the world remains far off track to meet those goals.
The Post-KFF poll also comes in the midst of a quickening Democratic presidential campaign that has featured climate change as a central issue. Former candidate and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat who made climate action the centerpiece of his campaign, drew little support and recently dropped out of the race. But his focus on climate action lives on in the proposals of some of the remaining candidates.
For Trump, climate change also could prove to be an issue, even among his GOP base. Though Democrats and independents are more likely to think climate change is caused by human activity, a majority of Republicans — 60% — say they, too, believe that, the Post-KFF survey found. And 23% of Republicans say they disapprove of how Trump is handling the issue, compared with just 9% of Republicans who disapprove of his job performance overall.
Those surveyed gave Trump’s handling of climate change the highest level of disapproval among six issues measured in the poll, with 67% saying they’re unhappy with Trump’s performance.
In recent years, several other national surveys have found increasing public concern about climate change. The Post-KFF poll’s finding that 79% think humans are driving global warming is significantly higher than some recent surveys have shown.
“The longer we wait, the more it becomes an insurmountable obstacle,” said Christa Moseng, 41, a Democrat in Minneapolis. “We need to deal with it as a crisis.”