CBS News polling shows that Americans are concerned about climate change and most want it to be addressed right away, but what do people think can realistically be done about it?
We asked Americans to weigh in on a few measures being proposed, asking specifically whether they think these goals are realistically achievable or not.
Public opinion is mixed, and views are shaped by political partisanship, as well as by broader views of climate change — the more urgent people think it is, the more optimistic they are about achieving these objectives.
Transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2035
Moving the U.S. to 100% renewable energy in the power sector by 2035 is one of the Biden administration’s goals, and at the moment, more see that as unrealistic than realistic.
One reason for these views may be uncertainty about whether alternative energy sources could meet the country’s electricity needs. Right now, a majority either don’t think so or are unsure. Among the 44% of Americans who think these sources could meet our power needs, most say getting to 100% renewable energy in 2035 is realistic.
And while Democrats are widely supportive of measures to curb climate change, many of them see transitioning to 100% renewable energy within 15 years as a high bar right now. More think it’s realistic than unrealistic, but only about half hold that view.
Oil and gas workers obtaining good jobs in renewable energy
If the country is looking to move away from fossil fuel energy and toward renewable energy, the work force will need to shift some too.
The public is divided on whether people with jobs currently in the oil and gas industries will be able to get good jobs in renewable energy. Those who say the fossil fuel industry plays a major role in their local economy are more likely than others to think this goal is unrealistic. But much of this is shaped by partisanship: Republicans, regardless of whether the fossil fuel industry plays a role in their local economy think this is unrealistic. And most Democrats think it is realistic regardless of where they live.
Can we really have a substantial impact on climate change in the U.S.?
And the big picture question: can the effects of climate change really be lessened? People who think it’s a realistic objective outnumber those who believe it’s not.
We see the partisan divides here that we see on many of these measures. A majority of Democrats, joined by a plurality of independents, think we can impact the effects of climate change. Most Republicans think that’s unrealistic.
About a quarter of Americans say they aren’t sure about this — similar to what we see in response to the other goals asked about, so there is room for shifts in opinion on all of these.
This CBS News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 2,003 U.S. residents interviewed between April 13-16, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as the 2020 presidential vote and registration status. The margin of error is ± 2.8 points.
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