CANCÚN, Mexico — New U.S. consumer research conducted by EnviroMedia Social Marketing shows generational and political gaps in connecting personal energy use with living conditions in other countries. Results of the survey are being released today as negotiators start talks at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP16) in Cancún.
According to the national telephone survey of 1,022 Americans, 43 percent disagree and 49 percent agree with the statement, “My personal energy use affects the health and living conditions of people in poor, developing countries.”
With Republicans now controlling the U.S. House of Representatives, the midterm elections could affect how much the U.S. is willing to aid in worldwide climate adaptation. The study shows nearly three out of five Republicans (58 percent) disagree with the statement while slightly more than one out of three (37 percent) express responsibility for the effects of personal energy use. This contrasts sharply with Democrats’ views, where 28 percent disagree with the statement and almost two out of three (64 percent) acknowledge responsibility.
Scientists have conclusively linked carbon-intensive energy use (like burning fossil fuels to warm homes and drive cars) with climate change. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said, “warming of the climate system is unequivocal” and connected its causes to human activity. Negotiators in Cancún will be urged to focus on helping developing countries most affected by changing global temperatures adapt to scenarios like droughts, flooding, disease, food shortages, and population migrations forced by climate change.
“For a global climate treaty to become a reality, we must address which polluters pay to fix the problem,” said Kevin Tuerff, co-founder and president of EnviroMedia and delegate to COP16. “I believe we won’t get very far toward funding climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries until the average consumer in the biggest polluting countries understands that his or her energy habits at home and work have a global impact.”
On the positive side, the new research shows 60 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds believe their personal energy use affects others globally.
EnviroMedia’s research contrasts with a study released last month by the U.N. Foundation, showing 88 percent of Americans believe the U.S. should be supportive of U.N. projects to improve the health situation in poor, developing countries (Public Opinion Strategies, Hart Research). The U.N. Foundation’s study also showed roughly nine out of 10 Americans support U.N. projects to improve access to safe drinking water, reverse the spread of diseases like malaria, and eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
“These are all effects of climate change, so if Americans are supportive of our country helping the U.N. with those kinds of global aid projects, we need to help them connect the dots between their own energy consumption and the human and societal effects of too much C02 in our atmosphere,” said EnviroMedia co-founder and CEO Valerie Davis, who is also at COP16. “It’s too bad there’s not more pressure from American consumers, politicians, and media for our own negotiators to do more for adaptation and mitigation strategies at COP16. That’s why we go — to see what’s really going on with these critical negotiations and hear directly from the delegates from other countries.”
Tuerff and Davis are reporting the latest from COP16 at http://www.GreenDetectives.net/.
Other EnviroMedia survey results include:
- When asked “Is coal a renewable energy source?” 25 percent of Americans said yes and another 15 percent said they didn’t know.
- The 60 percent of Americans who correctly said coal is not a renewable energy source skewed toward males, household incomes of more than $100,000, and a college education.
- The survey also asked Americans, “When you turn on a light switch at home, what fuel is the source of your electricity?” Unfortunately, nearly two-thirds of Americans didn’t even name a fuel source like coal, natural gas, or wind, with 45 percent saying the fuel source is “electricity” or “the electric company” and another 19 percent saying they don’t know.
“Saying electricity is fueled by the power company is like saying beef comes from the grocery store or babies come from the hospital,” said Davis.
About the Survey
Opinion Research Corporation surveyed 1,022 people November 5-8, 2010, by telephone in a random digit-dial sample, with a +/- 3.2 percent margin of error.
About EnviroMedia Social Marketing
EnviroMedia formed in 1997 as the nation’s first full-service marketing firm focused solely on creating authentic public education campaigns for environmental and public health clients. Offices include headquarters in Austin, Texas, and a West Coast branch in Portland, Oregon. In 2009, preceding the United Nations climate change talks in Copenhagen, EnviroMedia launched GreenDetectives.net to help consumers understand and decode complex climate change issues and terms. For more information, visit EnviroMedia.com.
Follow us on Twitter @enviromedia.
For Immediate Release: November 29, 2010