On April 20, 2006, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a Congressional briefing on polling results regarding public perceptions of climate change. Increasing media attention—including the April 3 special issue of Time magazine on global warming, an April 10 special report in US News & World Report, and the May “green issue” of Vanity Fair—has focused on a growing consensus among the American public that the problem of global warming is real and urgent. There has been a marked increase in scientific documentation of the impacts of global warming. This briefing explored whether a range of recent polls and trends show a corresponding shift in public opinion. The panelists were:

Dr. Whit Ayres, President, Ayres, McHenry & Associates Strategic Opinion Research
Dr. Clay Ramsay, Research Director, Program on International Policy Attitudes and Center on Policy Attitudes
Dr. Thomas Brewer, Associate Professor, Georgetown University, MacDonough School of Business

The panel addressed topics such as::

  • Do Americans believe there is a scientific consensus on global warming? Do they believe climate change is due to human activity? Do they believe they will experience the effects of global warming in their lifetime?
  • Do Americans support mandatory reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions? Do they support tougher vehicle emissions standards? Do they support a mandatory carbon cap-and-trade program to reduce GHG emissions? Do they support tax incentives for companies to reduce GHG emissions?
  • Would Americans accept higher energy costs to mitigate the effects of global warming? Do they believe it is possible to reduce GHG emissions? Do they believe individuals can do anything about global warming?
  • What specific steps are Americans willing to take to reduce energy usage and hence GHG emissions?
  • What are the historical trends in public attitudes on these kinds of questions?

Various legislative initiatives to address climate change have been introduced. The Climate Stewardship Act of 2005 (H.R. 759) had 112 cosponsors. On March 29, 2006, the Keep America Competitive Global Warming Policy Act of 2006 (H.R. 5049) was introduced by Reps. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Tom Petri (R-WI), calling for a national policy on global warming.

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