The following article, “After Ukraine, Voters Want Climate Solutions: New polling shows a bolstered desire for a rapid transition to green energy” by Stanley B. Greenberg, is cross-posted from The American Prospect:
The Russian invasion of a democratic Ukraine, the disruption of Russian oil and natural gas, and an unimaginable spike in gasoline prices have disrupted both global and domestic energy politics. They have done so in completely surprising but understandable and reassuring ways.
Predictably, Russia is reviled in ways we have not seen since the hottest days of the Cold War. In polling, the proportion of respondents viewing Russia negatively reached 72 percent, including 63 percent who were very negative. That was also matched by the polarized and symmetric embrace of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In June, a plurality of 36 percent had warm feelings toward it, though a fifth was not sure. Not now. A 2-to-1 majority feels warmly about NATO. And people also feel significantly warmer about allies like France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
But the war has also brought a series of dramatic and surprising shifts in public thinking about energy and climate change, according to surveys I conducted in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States for the Climate Policy and Strategy project.
After the global COP26 conference in Scotland, the public debate moved to whether China and India were on the program of getting to net-zero carbon emissions, and how one dealt with the high cost of transitioning to renewable energy. Some conservatives in Britain, Germany, and the United States raised those issues. And in our January survey in Germany, the new government elected on a climate agenda was getting the most support for helping consumers with their energy bill when the country’s carbon tax came into force, by removing the climate surcharge and shifting the cost onto the federal government.
But now in the United States, the spike in gas prices has led people to believe fossil fuels are the most expensive option. Every day they stare at figures approaching $5.00 and $6.00 a gallon, the highest price ever at the pump, it deepens the consciousness of this cost equation. A majority in my April survey now believe the cost of the transition will not be unacceptably high.
When we asked which concept is “more fundamental,” the “climate crisis” or “energy crisis,” a majority of 52 percent said the former. Only 41 percent chose the “energy crisis.” A third answered with intense agreement that the climate crisis is fundamental, compared to only a quarter on the energy crisis.
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