LOS ANGELES TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD
New results from a long-running public opinion survey show that about 1 in 3 Americans is now “alarmed” by global warming. Is it any wonder, given the horrific onslaught of fires, floods, heat waves and other climate disasters we’ve experienced in the last year alone?
The share of the U.S. adult population alarmed by global warming nearly doubled over the last five years from 18% to an all-time high of 33%, with about half of that increase occurring between December 2020 and September 2021, researchers with Yale University and George Mason University reported Wednesday as part of a twice-a-year nationwide survey. About 59% of Americans are either “alarmed” or “concerned” about climate change and overall are becoming more engaged and supportive of policies to reduce planet-warming pollution.
The shift in public opinion is surely being driven by experience. A recent Washington Post analysis found that more than 40% of Americans live in a county that was hit by climate-related disasters in 2021 — extremes that will get worse as the greenhouse gas-fueled rise in temperatures continues.
But what should alarm us even more is how out of step our government remains with Americans’ fast-evolving views on climate change, and how little state and federal leaders have done in the face of an escalating emergency. Instead of acting decisively to slash emissions, switch to renewable energy and phase out fossil fuel production, our government is still stuck in the mud, even as U.S. greenhouse gas emissions roar back after a pandemic-induced lull.
President Biden’s Build Back Better bill includes $555 billion for renewable energy and clean transportation and would be the nation’s biggest step ever to fight climate change, but it remains stalled in Congress. California, despite its reputation as an environmental champion, is not on track to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals, targets that are themselves inadequate and now lag behind other states and countries. The state Legislature, meanwhile, has failed to advance ambitious and necessary climate legislation, including measures to set more stringent emissions reduction goals and begin phasing out oil drilling, a transition that will both help the planet and protect communities of color that are hit hardest by fossil fuel pollution and suffer outsize health damage.