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Over 90 percent of Americans support action on climate change in midst of financial crisis

A new poll released today by Yale and George Mason Universities finds that Americans overwhelmingly—92 percent—support action to reduce global warming. However opinions vary as to how much effort should be put into reducing CO2 emissions and what actions are appropriate.

For example, 92 percent of American supported funding for renewable energy, 85 percent supported tax breaks for people who buy fuel-efficient vehicles or solar panels, and 80 percent supported regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant. When an economic cost was involved numbers were still high: nearly 80 percent supported a 45-mpg standard for new vehicles even if it would push the cost of buying a new car or truck up $1,000 dollars and 72 percent of those surveyed supported a law that would require utilities to produce at 20 percent of electricity from renewable resources even if it would tack on an extra $100 a year for the consumer.

Support dropped however when Americans were asked about a national cap-and-trade system. Such a system is currently supported by President Obama and many politicians, although only 53 percent of Americans supported the initiative. Perhaps more troubling for the politicians, only 11 percent strongly supported cap-and-trade while 23 percent strongly opposed it.

“If the president and members of Congress want to pass cap-and-trade legislation this year, they would be wise to quickly take steps to educate the American people,” said Edward Maibach of George Mason University.

However, at the same time 69 percent supported the US signing a treaty which stated it would cut CO2 emissions 90 percent by 2050. In addition two out of three Americans supported the United States working to reduce emissions even if other nations refuse to. Seven percent held the opposite view: that the US should only act when other nations do.

“When you make a mess, you’re supposed to clean up after yourself,” said Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale University. “We think many Americans view climate change in a similar way. The United States should act to reduce it’s own emissions regardless of what other countries do.”

The poll appears to be a contrast—though not an outright contradiction—of a recent poll by Gallup which showed that more Americans than ever believe global warming is exaggerated by the media (41 percent). If the results of these two polls are combined it appears that even Americans who believe global warming is exaggerated still see the issue as requiring action from the government.

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