The BBC released a major poll of 22,000 people in 21 countries (both developed and developing) showing attitudes towards global warming. The United States is often considered to be lagging behind other nations, but this poll suggests that most Americans agree that we need to take major steps urgently; perhaps the nation’s failure to act is more of a reflection of its leadership and not the will of its people.
Below is an excerpt from the poll regarding the attitudes of those in the United States:
Americans agree with most other world publics that human activity contributes significantly to climate change and that major steps should be taken immediately to address the problem. A majority also supports a deal that would provide financial assistance and technology to developing countries that limit their greenhouse gas emissions. Seven in 10 Americans (71%) say that human activity is “a significant cause of climate change.” By a margin of 59 percent to 33 percent, Americans say it is necessary to take “major steps starting very soon” rather than “modest steps over the coming years.” Only 6 percent say “it is not necessary to take any steps.” Three-quarters (75%) agree that “because total emissions from less wealthy countries are substantial and growing, these countries should limit their emissions of climate-changing gases along with wealthy countries.” Similar numbers (70%) support a deal that would provide developing countries with financial assistance and technology in return for an agreement to limit their emissions. Nearly nine in 10 (89%) Americans say they have heard a great deal (59%) or some (30%) about climate change. (source, PDF)
Also, a recent LiveScience article summarized the results of several new polls in the United States:
Nearly three-quarters of Americans are willing to pay more taxes to support local government efforts aimed at mitigating global warming…Americans were willing to pay more money in property taxes, home costs and utility fees to support initiatives that would encourage people to use less energy and get that energy from alternative sources…concern for the environment is growing among Americans and bolder action is desired…Americans are pessimistic about the current state of the environment and disapprove of how the government has been handling environmental issues…a majority of Americans believe that society must take action to reduce the effects of global warming, partly by enacting a new national treaty that would require much more drastic reductions in carbon dioxide than those required by the Kyoto Protocol (which the United States never ratified)…
“Nearly half of Americans now believe that global warming is either already having dangerous impacts on people around the world or will in the next 10 years—a 20 percentage-point increase since 2004. These results indicate a sea change in public opinion,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of Yale Project on Climate Change, in response to the findings of the earlier poll.
I find this level of awareness, concern, and motivation promising, at least.