Survey Finds Water and Air Pollution More Pressing than Climate Change

Washington, DC (July 2,2012) – A June 2012 Washington Post-Stanford University poll, conducted before a massive heat wave that plagued most of the U.S., finds that just 18% of respondents named climate change as their top environmental concern, compared to 33% in 2007.  What is?  Water and air pollution according to 29% of those polled.  Time to ramp up urban trees, which eliminate 711,000 tons of air pol­lu­tion in the U.S. annu­ally at a value of $3.8 billion, and have the added benefit of removing greenhouse gases.

According to the poll, Americans continue to see climate change as a threat, caused in part by human activity, and they think government and businesses should do more to address it. Nearly three-quarters say the Earth is warming, and just as many say they believe that temperatures will continue to rise if nothing is done.

But findings show that Washington’s decision to shelve action on climate policy means the issue has receded in public opinion, and may help explain why elected officials feel little pressure to impose curbs on greenhouse gas emissions.

And yet, 78% of those polled say global warming will be a serious problem if left alone, with 55% saying the U.S. government should do “a great deal” or “quite a bit” about it, and 61% say the same of American businesses. Just 18% say the government is doing enough to solve the problem and 13% say businesses are taking sufficient action. A sweeping climate change bill collapsed on Capitol Hill in 2010.

The Environmental Protection Agency has begun regulating greenhouse gas emissions from tailpipes and smokestacks under its existing powers, most recently proposing first-time national emissions standards for new power plants. However, standards for existing power plants, refineries and other big emitters are on a slower track with no clear timeline. Of those polled, 77% say the government should limit the amount of carbon dioxide that businesses can emit.

Related Resources:
Global Warming no Longer Americans’ Top Environmental Concern, Poll Finds
Poll: Climate Slides on List of Worries on Environment, but Public Still Wants Action
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