A majority of Massachusetts residents say global warming is happening and is caused by human activity, but many remain relatively apathetic on addressing the issue, a new survey released by MassInc shows.
The Barr Foundation-sponsored study comes as the state works toward meeting a requirement to reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gases by 80 percent by 2050 – one of the most aggressive goals in the country. It also highlighted significant differences of opinion based on political party, minority group, age and income.
The survey, called “The 80 Percent Challenge: A Survey of Climate Change Opinion and Action in Massachusetts” found that 77 percent of those surveyed say global warming has probably been happening – and 33 percent believe it is caused at least partially by human activity and very serious. Another 26 percent, however, who believe it is real and caused somewhat by humans do not see it as a serious threat.
Twenty-four percent of residents are considered “dubious”, meaning they are unsure global warming is real or believe it is drive by natural causes while another 17 percent are “dismissive”, meaning they do not believe it is real.
“In order to meet the goals of the new law, there will need to be a far greater sense of concern on the part of Massachusetts residents,’’ said Ben Forman, research director at MassInc. “What is needed in Massachusetts is a real culture of climate protection that fosters action across all sectors of our Commonwealth.”
Other findings of the poll included:
• 76 percent of residents between ages 18 and 29 say global warming is real and at least partially the result of human activity, compared to 43 percent of residents age 60 and over.
• About 69 percent of Latinos and 56 percent of African Americans say global warming will be a “very serious” problem if left unaddressed, versus 40 percent of white respondents.
• Forty-two percent of Democrats see global warming as a high priority for state leaders versus just 12 percent of Republicans. A majority of Republicans in Massachusetts believe global warming is either not happening (33 percent), or is happening due to natural causes (24 percent).
• Only a third of residents with annual incomes above $100,000 say it will be a very serious problem for Massachusetts if left unaddressed compared to half (49 percent) of residents with income between $50,000 and $100,000 annually.
The survey did show, however, that respondents want to see federal and state officials doing more on the issue, even as they rated it last on a list of issues considered high, long-term priority for the state legislature. Fifty-six percent of residents said the federal government should do more and 47 percent said state government should.
In addition, 53 percent believe working to address global warming will help the state economy and 23 percent say it will have no effect on it. About 16 percent say actions would hurt the economy.
Richard K. Sullivan Jr., state secretary of energy and environmental affairs saw the results as encouraging.
“Results of MassInc’s survey indicate that Massachusetts residents are willing to take the steps necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," he said in a statement.
He said of the $22 billion Massachusetts spends on energy each year, some 80 percent leaves the state to purchase oil, coal and natural gas from other countries.
“That’s nearly $18 billion in lost economic opportunity the Patrick-Murray Administration is poised to reclaim through a clean energy agenda that is also growing companies and jobs – to the tune of a 65 percent increase in clean energy sector jobs in the past four years,’’ he said.
The survey showed residents support renewable energy – with eight in ten residents willing to pay an extra dollar per month on their electric bill for clean energy. Some sixty percent said they would pay up to five dollars more per month.
The survey of 1,311 adults throughout Massachusetts was based on landline and cell telephone surveys in English and Spanish in mid-February. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.8 percent. The Barr Foundation is a private Boston-based foundation that works to improving lives; climate change is one of their key areas of emphasis.
For more on the study go here.
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