Inside USD

Survey: Climate Change Awareness High in SD

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

When it comes to climate change, San Diegans are more aware than others in the U.S. that it’s occurring and of the threats it poses to the environment, according to a survey by the San Diego Regional Climate Education Partnership.

“In the wake of a polarizing national dialogue around scientific research on climate change,” said Dr. Michel Boudrias of USD, the partnership’s lead scientist, ”the survey suggests residents support the San Diego region showing national leadership in responding to the impacts posed by a changing climate. They get it, they understand it and they seem to know it’s affecting the region’s water supply and coastlines, and could have a long-term impact on health, wildfires and other quality of life issues.”

According to the survey of more than 1,000  San Diego residents, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of San Diegans understand there is a scientific consensus regarding the science of climate change, a critical distinction in the national dialogue. Furthermore, San Diegans agree there are links suggesting the connection between carbon dioxide emissions and the effects of climate change.

Overall, San Diegans accept the facts that inform the science of climate change such as:

  • Gasoline engines and electricity generation emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (68 percent).
  • Rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a major cause of increased temperatures (54 percent).
  • Worldwide annual temperatures between 1990 and 2010 have been the warmest in recorded history (55 percent).

Compared to previous opinion research done at the national level, like the ‘6 America’s poll conducted  by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and  George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, this survey found that San Diegans are generally more concerned than other Americans about the threats posed by climate change and are more supportive of efforts to address these threats, than are citizens of the country at-large.*

Overall the survey results suggest that while climate change might not be the most to-of-mind issue for San Diego County residents, they are concerned about the issue and clearly come down on the side of taking action to mitigate and prepare for its effects, Boudrias said. Many San Diegans already understand that people can make substantial progress in reducing the effects of climate change (66 percent). While many San Diegans wonder if we will do what is needed (41 percent), many are prepared to reduce their own electricity and water use, as well as make changes to their transportation use patterns in order to do their part.

This new county-wide survey is part of a project to develop innovative communication and education strategies to provide better understanding of climate science and climate change impacts  in the region  and help communities make informed decisions. The San Diego Regional Climate Education Partnership includes scientists from Marine Science and Environmental Studies at the University of San Diego and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, policy experts from the Energy Policy Initiative Center at USD, social and behavioral psychologists from California State University San Marcos, strategic community planners from The San Diego Foundation and strategic communication experts from The Steve Alexander Group.

– Liz Harman

*Global Warming’s Six Americas in May 2011. Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, 27 June 2011.

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