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.