Majority in region believe it’s a problem
A regional survey suggests the Obama Administration will have little trouble convincing the majority of those living in southwestern Pennsylvania that climate change – the target of the president’s “Clean Power Plan” announced on Monday – is a worrisome problem.
More than 64 percent of residents in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area describe climate change as a severe or moderate problem. Only 18.5 percent of people in the region believe climate change isn’t a problem at all.
The findings are reported in the Pittsburgh Regional Environment Survey conducted less than two years ago by Pittsburgh Today and our colleagues at the University Center for Social and Urban Research at the University of Pittsburgh.
A similarly small number of climate change disbelievers is reported in a national survey released last year by Yale University researchers. That survey suggests only 18 percent of Americans feel “global warming is not happening,” while 63 percent think otherwise.
The Obama Administration’s new policy for fighting climate change seeks to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels over the next 15 years. States are required to make the cuts with their options for doing so ranging from setting policies that demand a greater share of their electricity come from renewable sources such as solar and wind to shifting from coal-burning power plants to natural gas generation.
Who is to blame?
Our survey reveals that, while the regional population largely acknowledges climate change, it is more divided on whether human activity or a natural warming cycle is mostly to blame. In the region as a whole, 56 percent of residents believe human activities are largely to blame, while 44 percent believe it is the result of natural changes in the environment.
Perceptions vary somewhat by geography, income and other factors. Those living in the six MSA counties outside Allegheny, for example, are less likely to describe climate change as a severe problem and more likely to think it isn’t a problem at all.
Age also matters. Young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 are less likely to dismiss the notion that climate change is a problem and most likely of any age group to believe human activity is to blame. And when income is considered, residents across the region who earn $150,000 a year or more are least likely to see climate change as largely man-made.
Advocates for action
Despite differences over the cause, the Pittsburgh Regional Environment Survey suggests broad consensus among residents throughout the region for taking action to reduce air pollution in ways proposed in the Obama Administration’s new plan.
More than 69 percent of southwestern Pennsylvania residents support emission controls on coal-fired power plants. Such support is greatest within Allegheny County, where 74 percent advocate of emission controls. Still, 64 percent of MSA residents in the other six counties feel the same way.
And in response to a question more specific to climate change, 73 percent of those living in southwestern Pennsylvania say they favor mandatory controls on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Follow this link to see the Pittsburgh Regional Environment Survey report and complete data tables.