Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

MIT survey: Climate change tops Americans' environmental concerns

01.11.2006
According to a recent MIT survey, Americans now rank climate change as the country's most pressing environmental problem-a dramatic shift from three years ago, when they ranked climate change sixth out of 10 environmental concerns.

Almost three-quarters of the respondents felt the government should do more to deal with global warming, and individuals were willing to spend their own money to help.

"While terrorism and the war in Iraq are the main issues of national concern, there's been a remarkable increase in the American public's recognition of global warming and their willingness to do something about it," said Stephen Ansolabehere, MIT's Elting R. Morison Professor of Political Science.

The survey results were released Oct. 31 at the seventh annual Carbon Sequestration Forum, an international meeting held at MIT that focuses on methods of capturing and storing emissions of carbon dioxide-a major contributor to climate change.

Ansolabehere's colleagues on the work are Howard Herzog, principal research engineer in MIT's Laboratory for Energy and the Environment (LFEE), LFEE research associates Thomas E. Curry and Mark de Figueiredo, and Professor David M. Reiner of the University of Cambridge.

The findings are a result of two surveys, the first administered in September 2003 and the follow-up in September 2006. Each survey included about 20 questions focusing on the environment, global warming and a variety of climate-change-mitigation technologies.

In designing and administering the surveys, the research team collaborated with Knowledge Networks, a company that specializes in Internet-based public opinion surveys. More than 1,200 people answered each survey (with no overlap between the two groups of respondents).

Comparing results from the two surveys provides insights into how public awareness, concern and understanding have changed-or not changed-during the past three years.

The environment continues to rank in the middle of the list of "most important issues facing the U.S. today." However, among 10 environmental problems, global warming (or climate change) now tops the list: Almost half the respondents put global warming in first or second place. In 2003, the destruction of ecosystems, water pollution and toxic waste were far higher priorities.

There is also an increased sense that global warming is an established problem. In the 2006 survey, 28 percent of the respondents agreed that it is a serious problem and immediate action is necessary-up from 17 percent in 2003. All together, almost 60 percent of the 2006 respondents agreed that there's enough evidence to warrant some level of action.

The other big change is a substantial increase in people's willingness to spend their own money to do something about it. In 2003, people were willing to pay on average $14 more per month on their electricity bill to "solve" global warming. In 2006 they agreed to pay $21 more per month-a 50 percent increase in their willingness to pay.

Could $21 make a real difference? Assuming 100 million U.S. households, total payments would be $25 billion per year. "That's real money," said Herzog. "While it cannot solve the whole problem, it can certainly make significant strides."

For context, Ansolabehere pointed out that the U.S. Department of Energy's budget for energy R&D is now about $2 billion per year. "Another reading of this outcome is that people want not a little bit more spent but rather a lot more spent to solve this problem-and they're willing to pay," he said.

The MIT team undertook the original survey in 2003 to find out what the public thought about carbon capture and storage (CCS), an approach that Herzog and his LFEE colleagues had been studying for more than a decade. The team was not surprised to find that more than 90 percent of the respondents had never heard of CCS. The 2006 survey showed similar results.

In general, the respondents' understanding of climate change and possible mitigation technologies showed little change between 2003 and 2006. In terms of their technology preferences, in 2006 most still recommended using more wind and solar energy and increasing efficiency, but more were willing to consider CCS and nuclear energy as possible approaches.

"It's not that people have learned something fundamental about the science, but they've come to understand that this problem is real," said Ansolabehere. "It takes a prolonged discussion of a complex topic like this really to move public concern, and what's happened over the past three years has got to continue."

The researchers plan to analyze the survey results in more depth, in particular to test for correlations between answers to questions and the economic, political, geographical and other demographic characteristics of the respondents.

This research was supported by the MIT Carbon Sequestration Initiative (sequestration.mit.edu/CSI/index.html). For more details about the surveys and their results, go to sequestration.mit.edu/research/survey2006.html.

Elizabeth A. Thomson | MIT News Office
Further information:
http://www.mit.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht How does the loss of species alter ecosystems?
18.05.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Excess diesel emissions bring global health & environmental impacts
16.05.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can the immune system be boosted against Staphylococcus aureus by delivery of messenger RNA?

Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.

Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds

26.05.2017 | Life Sciences

First Juno science results supported by University of Leicester's Jupiter 'forecast'

26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>