EPRG 0607

David Reiner

From Public Understanding to Public Policy: Public Views on Energy, Technology & Climate Science in the United States

EPRG 0607 Non-Technical Summary | PDF

Also published in:

  • Reiner, David. “From public understanding to public policy: public views on energy, technology and climate science in the United States” chapter in “Driving Climate Change: cutting carbon from transportation” Sperling, Daniel and Cannon, James. pages 201-217

Abstract: Public attitudes towards energy technologies and climate change are explored by reviewing recent surveys of American opinion. Many claim to be interested in science or the environment, but only a small percentage is truly “aware”. On some questions, Americans exhibit relatively good understanding, such as the role of trees in the carbon cycle and the major source of household energy demand, but on others, such as the effects of nuclear power or how most electricity is produced, views are often confused. Information can have an impact on public opinion, shifting attitudes markedly. Respondents also tend to underestimate the role that individuals play in environmental degradation. Finally, in spite of recent concern from some progressives over the “Death of Environmentalism” and the supposed triumph of conservatives in shaping the public’s view on the environment, the rationale for abandoning traditional bipartisan approaches to environmental protection is shown to be weak at best.

Keywords: U.S. public opinion, social and political acceptability, politics of climate change, energy attitudes

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