U.S. and Global Publics Want a New Deal on Global Warming

The U.N. climate change conference in Bali, Indonesia came to a close this week, and once again the Bush administration held firm in rejecting ambitious targets for reducing emissions of global warming gases. Back on the other side of the globe, Senate conservatives once again blocked a vote on legislation that would have increased fuel economy standards and given a boost to renewable fuels.

Yet it is important to stress that this intransigence in no way reflects the views of the American public, which, like publics worldwide, is anxious to see serious action to address global warming.

Consider these results from a September 2007 BBC World Service poll conducted by GlobeScan/Program on International Policy Attitudes. The poll asked respondents in all 21 countries covered by the poll—Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, and the United States—what steps were required to address global warming: “major steps very soon,” “modest steps in coming years,” or “not…any steps.”

As the chart below shows, 59 percent of the U.S. public endorses taking major steps soon, compared to 33 percent who endorse the modest steps approach, and just 6 percent who think no steps are necessary. These numbers are close to the 21-country averages of 65 percent, 25 percent, and 6 percent.

So the public is ready for serious action on this issue. And the public is well aware that action needs to be global and include both poorer and richer countries. In order to do this, the U.S. and global publics endorse a new deal on global warming where less wealthy countries receive financial assistance and technology from wealthy countries in return for agreeing to limit their emissions of greenhouse gases. In the BBC poll, 70 percent of the U.S. public endorses such a deal—very close to the 73 percent average among the 21 countries included in the poll.

Deal or no deal? The public’s position is clear. They want a deal, and they want it soon. Now it’s up to the Bush administration which, we can only hope, will discover the environmental conscience that it couldn’t find in Bali.