News blog

Poll finds US support for adaptation to climate change



A majority of people in the United States believe the planet is warming — and they want coastal communities to start preparing for the rising seas and stronger storm surges that will result, according to a national poll.

Researchers at Stanford University in California say that 82% of US adults believe climate change is already occurring. An equal percentage favour enacting policies to help coastal areas to increase their resilience to rising waters and extreme weather.

Just over three-fifths of survey respondents support strengthening building codes, and slightly more than half say that coastal communities should ban new construction in high-risk areas. The creation and protection of sand dunes is endorsed by 49%.

But measures to reinforce coasts are far less popular, reveals the online survey of 1,174 adults, released today in Washington DC. It was conducted online last month by GfK Research and carries a margin of error of ±4.9%.

Just one-third of respondents backed replenishing beaches and building sea walls, such as the barrier proposed for lower Manhattan after devastating flooding there last year in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Long Beach Island in New Jersey (pictured) sustained some of the worst damage from that storm.

“There is little support for trying to fight Mother Nature by trying to hold back water on existing coasts,” says Jon Krosnick, a political scientist at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment, who directed the survey.

Respondents were also less than enthusiastic about the prospect of the US government footing the bill for climate-change adaptation, Krosnick’s research shows. Some 60% of survey respondents said that people and businesses who live in harm’s way should bear the costs of preparing for sea-level rise and damaging storms.

“It’s not that people don’t want government involved, but they do want people in these areas to pay,” says Krosnick.

Already, 39% of the US population — 123 million people — live in coastal counties, according to figures released Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The agency estimates that number will swell to nearly 134 million by 2020, on the basis of an analysis it conducted with the US Census Bureau.


  1. Report this comment

    Meme MIne said:

    There isn’t any scientific consensus:
    Science will say comet hits are real but science will not say climate change is as real as a comet hit. It’s been 27 years of “maybe”. A comet hit of an emergency needs certainty, not more “maybes”. Find one IPCC warning not swimming in “maybes”. Help my house is on fire maybe? All of science agrees it might be a crisis, not will be a crisis.

    1. Report this comment

      Florian Fritzsche said:

      I don’t get the point about the science. And I go with the old Arabs who said “Trust in God but tie your camel.” The early response to climate change (real or even not) will ultimately bring along more benefits than costs. The whole big machine called world economy is running based on “maybe”…

  2. Report this comment

    Silvio Junior said:

    Congratulations for the post!

    Glad to know that the U.S. population is becoming aware of the importance of preservation. But it is strange that people only become aware when their properties, and homes are threatened by the possible response of nature. They know that nature’s fury is great, but not yet realized that the real threat in this story is our planet. And this can be seen in the text to the extent that only 49% of the population is in favor of the creation and protection of sand dunes.

    I hope they someday be able to see who really need help!

  3. Report this comment

    James Vance said:

    Is a piano suspended several stories above your head an emergency?

    Guess that depends on whether the rigging is high-strength steel cable which is properly arranged, or a lot of small-diameter sisal rope wrapped slapdash because the moving crew wasn’t so inclined to take care in advance planning for the job and made no arrangements to bring along the correct equipment. If the latter circumstance, it would (or should, when recognized) elicit a strong incentive to remove oneself from gravity’s bulls-eye in the region directly beneath the suspended object, and not only warn others of the potential danger but perhaps also challenge the moving company’s legitimate right to conduct business in such an irresponsible manner.

Comments are closed.