Donald Trump intends to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, has dismantled regulations on fuel efficiency, and has promised to revive the fortunes of the coal industry. Like bollards blocking the route to a sustainable future, he and his administration appear to have no plan except to obstruct climate action. But the interesting thing is that they don’t represent American views at all.
The Yale Programme on Climate Change Communication studies opinions on climate change and support for various policy responses. There is now no county in country where the majority of people think climate change isn’t happening. Only 14% of the population share Trump’s view that it isn’t happening – although he denies all the many times he said it was a hoax.
On the more contested question of what causes climate change, 57% agree that it is mostly caused by human activities. That might seem a little low, but it doesn’t stop people from broadly supporting climate change policies.
77% agree that CO2 should be regulated as a pollutant, 70% on limiting emissions from coal plants. Incentives for solar panels and efficient vehicles are popular, with over 80% in favour. 79% think global warming should be taught in school. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that when people are asked if economic growth is more important that the environment, only 28% agree. 70% think the environment is more important.
In other words, Trump is playing to a vocal minority. His policies don’t reflect the balance of opinion. It’s an extreme view. Unfortunately it’s one that seems rather prevalent in Congress too, but there’s a good opportunity to change that coming up in November.