A clear majority of adults in the US are in favour of stronger efforts to tackle the causes of climate change but just one-third in the major oil and gas-producing nation want to see fossil fuels phased out, according to a report.
In his more than 130 days in office, US President Joe Biden has recommitted to the Paris Agreement on climate change, pitched a plan to invest billions of dollars in climate change technologies like carbon capture and hydrogen energy, and pledged to propel the US to net-zero carbon by 2050.
This refocused attention on climate and energy policies at the federal level is welcomed by most in the US. However, while much of the nation supports an array of measures to address climate change, they stop short of full break with fossil fuels, according to a recent survey.
Sustainability in focus
The survey of more than 13,700 US adults was carried out by the non-partisan Pew Research Center. Researchers sought to understand how Americans view climate, energy, and environmental issues and was conducted over nine days in late April
A sizeable majority — 64% — said efforts to reduce the effects of climate change need to be prioritised to ensure a sustainable planet for future generations, even if it means fewer resources for addressing other important issues facing the US and its citizens.
However, while nearly two-thirds of Americans say the US should use a mix of energy sources going forward, only 33% support phasing out fossil fuels entirely.
“By 51% to 47%, a slightly larger share of Americans oppose than favour phasing out the production of new gasoline cars and trucks by 2035,” the survey report said.
Generationally speaking, the survey found that 56% of Generation Z and 57% of Millennials favour phasing out new gasoline cars and trucks by the year 2035.
The Pew Research Center defines a Millennial as anyone born between 1981 and 1996, and anyone born from 1997 onward is part of Generation Z.
By contrast, 54% of Generation X and 59% of Baby Boomer and older adults oppose the idea.
Generation X, according to the group, describes people born from 1965 through 1980, while the Baby Boom generation is used to describe those born from 1946 through 1964.
Support for phasing out the use of oil, coal and natural gas is significantly higher among Generation Z and Millennials (43% and 42%, respectively). Support among Generation X is 32% and among Baby Boomer and older adults is just 25%.
Politically speaking, younger adults as a group identify with or lean towards the Democratic Party, according to the research centre.
“But generational differences in climate change attitudes and behaviours are not simply a reflection of the Democratic orientation of younger adults,” the survey report said.
“In fact, among Republicans, generational differences in views are often quite pronounced.
“For example, 49% of Generation Z and 48% of Millennial Republicans say action to reduce the effects of climate change needs to be prioritised today, even if that means fewer resources to deal with other important problems; significantly fewer Generation X (37%) and Baby Boomer and older (26%) Republicans say the same.”
Republican support for expanding wind and solar power has decreased by 13% and 11%, respectively, compared with a year ago when Donald Trump was in office, the survey found.
The number of Republicans and Republican leaners who support expanding hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas has increased by 10% over the same period, while those supporting and offshore oil and gas drilling has risen by 6%.
“Even so, younger Republicans remain less likely than their older counterparts to support expanding fossil fuel sources, consistent with past Centre surveys,” the report said.