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Catching up on global warming

Once again, the American people have come together to demand action while Congress writhes in partisan conflict as many in the GOP focus on blocking action rather than solving problems. This time the issue is global warming.

A poll we just completed, with our Republican colleagues at Public Opinion Strategies, for the PEW Environmental Group (none of whom bears any responsibility for the opinions expressed here) reveals near public unanimity in demanding action on global warming.

While some doubting Thomases insist on wasting taxpayers’ time by debating the reality of global warming, voters are way past that. A clear public consensus has emerged on the reality of global warming and the severity of the threat it represents.

Eighty-three percent — nearly everyone — believes global warming is a reality that is either happening now or will happen in the future. Most (65 percent) say global warming is already occurring, with an additional 18 percent believing it will happen in the future. Just 10 percent of voters join some Republican politicians as members of The Flat Earth Society, denying evidence of global warming. Six in 10 voters also believe global warming results mainly from human activity, compared to just 29 percent who believe global warming is mainly the result of natural causes.

Voters not only recognize the reality of global warming, but also the serious threat it presents.

Seventy-seven percent say global warming already constitutes a serious threat today — up a net of 11 points over the last decade. Recognition of the threat is evident across the country, with 80 percent in the Northeast, 76 percent in the South, 76 percent in the Midwest and 80 percent in the West all agreeing that global warming represents a serious threat. Republican voters are far ahead of their politicians, with nearly two-thirds perceiving a serious threat arising from global warming — a view echoed by 89 percent of Democrats and 81 percent of independents.

Because voters understand the reality and the threat, a huge 82 percent supermajority are demanding action to reduce U.S. carbon emissions — a position about as close to unanimity as can be found in American politics. What’s more, the huge majority that favors U.S. action does so with real fervor.

Two-thirds not only favor U.S. action, but also “strongly” favor such action. A mere 11 percent oppose American efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Congress is now debating a bill that would reduce the carbon pollution that causes global warming 70 percent by 2050, and voters want their elected representatives to join them in supporting this effort.

Nearly two-thirds said they would feel more favorably toward their members of Congress if they supported the bill, compared to only 12 percent who say it would make them feel less favorable.

Voters demand action on global warming because they understand what some in Congress do not. First, Americans recognize that carbon pollution is dramatically altering our world for the worse and that we have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren to be good stewards of the creation we have been given.

Americans understand that we spend too much time fighting about global warming instead of taking action to reduce air pollution and to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Americans understand that vigorous action to reduce global warming will challenge our creative passions and can-do spirit to create completely new industries and hundreds of thousands of jobs of all kinds — for everyone from construction workers to engineers —  as we invent our way out of an energy crisis, instead of trying to drill our way out of it.

We can only hope the collective wisdom of the Congress members matches that of the people they represent.

Mellman is president of The Mellman Group and has worked for Democratic candidates and causes since 1982, including Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004.

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