San Diegans Show Greater Concern about Climate Change Impacts than Others in U.S.

San Diego Regional Climate Education Partnership Releases Findings from Countywide Public Opinion Research on San Diego Views on Climate Change Impacts

 The San Diego Regional Climate Education Partnership today released findings from a public opinion poll regarding San Diego and the impacts of climate change on the region. The Partnership conducted a countywide public opinion survey of over 1,000 San Diego residents to better understand their views of climate science and the impacts of climate change. The survey found that San Diegans are consistently more aware than others throughout the U.S. that climate change is occurring and that it poses significant threats to the region’s oceans, clean air and water supplies, especially for future generations.

“In the wake of a polarizing national dialogue around scientific research on climate change,” stated San Diego Regional Climate Education Partnership lead scientist Dr. Michel Boudrias, “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, 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 scientific understanding 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).

San Diegans show general concern for the potential impacts of a changing climate (79 percent) though they are somewhat unclear as to what direct effect these impacts will have. The highest degree of specific concern (71 percent) is expressed for “future generations,” followed by “children” (69 percent) and “humanity” in general (65 percent) indicating a strong connection to climate change impacts on people. Furthermore San Diegans appear to understand the links between humans and the environment.

“In San Diego, quality of life is largely connected to our unique environment, including beaches and bays, mountains and deserts, and other natural resources and landscapes,” offered Mike McDade, business leader and chair of the project’s Advisory Board. “The regional impacts of climate change in the San Diego region could result in varying rainfall patterns, increasing temperatures and increasing droughts, all of which would significantly impact water supplies, forest fires and natural habitats which make this region so rich in its diversity of plants and animals.”

This  growing understanding of the basics of climate science indicates that San Diegans are well-positioned to lead the nation in lessening the impacts of climate change and protecting the ability of future generations to enjoy a high quality of life in the region. Fortunately, many San Diegans already understand that people can make substantial progress in reducing the effects of climate change (66 percent). And 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.

Overall the survey results suggest that while climate change might not be the most top-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. In fact, compared to previous opinion research done at the national level, like the ‘6 Americas’ 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.* San Diegans believe that climate change will have important impacts on clean air and water in the region and the region’s overall quality of life – potentially including increased wildfires, air quality issues, coastal area shrinkage, diminished water supplies, and threats to public health.

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 (USD) and Scripps Institution of Oceanography, policy experts from 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.

From Oct. 6, 11-19, 2011, Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3) completed 1,011 telephone interviews with adult residents in San Diego County. Interviews were conducted on landline and cellular telephones in English and Spanish. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is +/- 3.1 percent, margins of error for other subgroups within the sample will be higher.

*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.



The University of San Diego is a Catholic institution of higher learning chartered in 1949; the school enrolls some 7,800 undergraduate and graduate students and is known for its commitment to teaching, the liberal arts, the formation of values and community service. The fall 2007 establishment of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies brings the University's total number of schools and colleges to six. Other academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences and the schools of Business Administration, Leadership and Education Sciences, Law and Nursing and Health Sciences.

The Energy Policy Initiatives Center (EPIC) is a non-profit academic and research center of the USD School of Law that studies energy policy issues affecting the San Diego region and California. EPIC integrates research and analysis, law school study, and public education, and serves as a source of legal and policy expertise and information in the development of sustainable solutions that meet our future energy needs. For more information on USD’s Energy Policy Initiatives Center (EPIC), go to

 The San Diego Foundation is San Diego’s leading resource for information about charitable giving and community needs. The Foundation encourages, supports and facilitates meaningful dialogue on issues affecting each of the region’s communities, and works with philanthropists to develop creative solutions to meet critical community needs. Since its inception in 1975, The San Diego Foundation has helped public –spirited citizens find ways to address community problems. Funds managed now number in the thousands. Through them, donors support numerous organizations and serve a variety of extraordinary causes. Donors and funds all share a common purpose: to make San Diego a better place to live, work and play. For more information on The San Diego Foundation’s study, visit

 California State University San Marcos is a new kind of CSU – fully engaged in the community, technologically sophisticated, and dedicated to teaching future generations through a relevant curriculum with a global perspective. CSUSM includes high quality, close instruction at three colleges and a school of nursing, a technology-rich campus, more than 80 student clubs and organizations, the Clarke Field House and an active Associated Students, Inc. and 304 rolling acres nested into the foothills above the city of San Marcos, and a short distance to the beaches of the Pacific Ocean and the Mexican border. For more information on California State University San Marcos, visit

 Scripps Institution of Oceanography is one of the oldest, largest and most important centers for ocean and earth science research, education and public service in the world. Research at Scripps Institution of Oceanography encompasses physical, chemical, biological, geological and geophysical studies of the ocean and earth. For more information on Scripps Institution of Oceanography, visit

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The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 9,000 students from 69 countries and 50 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. The university's eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD's Envisioning 2024 strategic plan capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.