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New survey shows majority of Americans support taking climate action but don’t often follow through

Americans talk a big game when it comes to expressing support for combatting the climate crisis, according to a newly published survey conducted jointly by Yale and George Mason Universities. But they’re far less effective when it comes to acting on it.

The survey was carried out from 18-29 March 2021 and found that more than half of respondents – 52 per cent – said they would sign a petition regarding global warming.

“However, in the past year only 15 per cent of Americans say they actually have signed a petition about global warming at least once, 13 per cent have donated money to an organisation working on global warming at least once, and six per cent have volunteered their time to an organisation working on global warming at least once,” the report found.

More than one in four surveyed Americans – 28 per cent – said they would write or phone government officials about global warming but fewer than eight per cent said they’d done so in the past year.

Similarly, “three in ten Americans (29 per cent) say they are “definitely” or “probably” willing to join a campaign to convince elected officials to take action to reduce global warming, and more than three in ten Americans (34 per cent) say they “definitely” or “probably” would participate in such a campaign specifically to convince local elected officials”.

That contrasts with the tiny one per cent who said they were actively making either of those campaigning efforts.

“There’s a wide variety of actions that people can do, and there’s definitely room for people to do more,” Yale climate program postdoctoral associate Jennifer Carman told The Independent. “Climate change has become more prominent in a lot of discourse and in politics ... There have been some changes, but there’s still a lot of room to grow, too, especially on the political” side.

The situation does look much more positive, however, when it comes to Americans making small changes in their home routines to do their part in the climate crisis, the report found, which was conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.

A whopping 89 per cent of respondents said they use energy-efficient lightbulbs in their homes, while 52 per cent said they’d deliberately purchased an energy-efficient kitchen appliance. Americans seem to be becoming more aware of the amount of energy expended by heating and cooling systems, with 62 per cent responding that they set their thermostats to 68 degrees or cooler in the winter at least some of the time and 54 percent setting their thermostats to 76 degrees or warmer in the summer.

When it comes to food and trash habits, 63 per cent said they make efforts to eat less red meat. One in three, or 33 per cent, said they avoid creating food waste while 26 per cent say they compost food waste.

But what “we also wanted to do with this report is show that it’s not just ... household actions,” Carman told The Independent. “It includes these political actions. It includes getting involved locally, contacting politicians. It also involves methods and ways to prepare yourselves for climate change impacts – joining emergency response teams and thinking about those, as well.”

She added: “I would hope that people think about which of these behaviors they are doing and which ones they might feel comfortable doing, especially if they see these results and get frustrated at what behaviors aren’t being done or what behaviors they might like to do – to think about” it.

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