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Climate survey results show majority of local residents concerned about climate change

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A recent poll of adults in five Southwest Florida counties (Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee), conducted by Lake Research Partners on behalf of Growing Climate Solutions, demonstrates that a majority of adults are personally concerned about climate change. The survey found that 68% said that climate change is happening, 23% of respondents said it was not happening, and 9% were not sure.  However, when asked if climate change is happening with the opportunity to clarify a causal explanation, a total of 87% of adults observe that climate change is happening and over two-thirds attribute it to human or human and natural causes. Slightly less than a quarter of respondents attributed it to natural causes, and only 5% who stated it is not happening.

Strong majorities support a range of policies that would reduce pollution that causes climate change and overwhelmingly believe that communities need to prepare for floods, as well as droughts, to minimize their impact. Nearly 80% of respondents think local, state and federal governments should do more to protect natural coastlines and wetlands, which provide essential storm protection from climate change and sea level rise.

“Survey results show that people think it is important to speak out about climate change, especially to their families, friends and elected officials,” said Jonathan Voss, a partner at Lake Research Partners. “People feel more empowered to advance solutions when they think their community has acted, and more than half the respondents want to see their towns act. Thus, traction on climate challenges seems to foment with local government engagement on the issue.”

More than half of adults surveyed, 56%, want local government to address climate challenges, including taking actions that tackle root causes and alleviate its impacts. Trust in local community leaders as a source of information about climate change increased across party lines since 2018. Today, 29% of adults trust local community leaders as a source of information, up from 23% in 2018.

“This is good news. It suggests that if the trend continues, decisions made by local officials to address climate challenges will be supported by residents over time,” said Rob Moher, president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

“Interestingly, a majority of people believe that the private sector is most likely to advance solutions on climate change, with 67% of Republicans believing the solutions will come from the private sector,” said Dr. Ana Puszkin-Chevlin, regional director of Growing Climate Solutions: Path to Positive Initiative at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “This supports the idea of formulating policies that incentivize positive climate and environmental behaviors and investment from the corporate sector.”

Strong majorities support a range of policies that would financially incentivize investments in clean energy at both the corporate and household level, including more than 85% favoring, modernizing America’s electric grid, 74% favoring charging polluters for pollution, 70% favoring providing incentives for switching to solar energy, 65% favoring providing corporate tax credits to expand clean energy, 61% supporting personal tax credits for electric or hybrid vehicles and 61% supporting passing laws for more efficient buildings and cars.

Puszkin-Chevlin notes that compared to a similar poll conducted in 2018, concern for climate impacts and support for climate action has declined; likely due to the pandemic and current geopolitical conditions impacting the economy, such as supply chain issues and increased energy costs.

 “This year’s polling was conducted in April, when the impacts of Russian energy reliance in Europe dominated headlines and domestic gas prices were rising steeply,” she added.

The proportion of adults that think it is important to prioritize economic growth over acting on climate change increased by 13 points. Just over half of adults think it is more important to prioritize economic growth over acting on climate change, including 79% of Republicans and just 19% of Democrats. Men over age 50 and Republican voters drove much of that change. The challenge is that tackling climate issues requires an ongoing commitment, despite economic cycles and there is no time to wait in order to meet emission reduction goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The poll shows increased polarization in climate concerns, need for action and optimism for solutions among residents of different political affiliations, with Democrats more strongly stating climate concerns and supporting actions toward solutions than Republicans.

Common ground can be found in growing support for increasing the production of clean energy, with 80% of adults supporting increased use of solar energy and more than half advocating a decreased use of coal. More than two-thirds of adults support increased use of wind, natural gas and nuclear power, with a notable increase in support for nuclear energy since 2018, especially among women, people under age 50 and independents.

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Lake Research Partner, a national public opinion and political strategy research firm, designed and administered this survey on behalf of Growing Climate Solutions. It was conducted online via textfrom April 14 through April 18, 2022. The survey reached a total of 400 adults in Southwest Florida, specifically in Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties. Telephone numbers for the sample were generated from a list of adults in the Fort Myers, Florida area. Respondents were sent a link via text, which opened a website for them to take the survey. The sample was weighted slightly by gender, region, region by gender, age, race, and partisanship. The margin of error for the sample is 4.9%.

About Growing Climate Solutions:
Growing Climate Solutions is a partnership between the Community Foundation of Collier County, the Collaboratory, Florida Gulf Coast University and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, which receives additional support from the Kapnick Family Foundation and other future-focused organizations, businesses and individuals. The partnership’s four primary goals are to empower community members and leaders to initiate climate action, ensure a prosperous and resilient community, build climate literacy and protect natural assets that help mitigate the impacts of climate change. For more information or to become involved with the initiative, please visit GrowingClimateSolutions.org.

About the Conservancy of Southwest Florida:
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is a not-for-profit environmental protection organization with a 58-year history focused on issues impacting water, land, wildlife and the future of Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Conservancy accomplishes this mission through the combined efforts of its experts in the areas of environmental science, policy, education and wildlife rehabilitation. Learn more about the Conservancy’s work and how to support the quality of life in Southwest Florida www.conservancy.org.

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