Less Than 50 Percent of Americans Back Climate Proposals to Substantially Cut Emissions

As Democrats negotiate over climate change provisions intended to be included in President Joe Biden's Build Back Better reconciliation package, new polling shows that less than half of Americans support proposals that would substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, has opposed significant climate change provisions included in the initially $3.5 trillion "human infrastructure" package. The White House reportedly has been scrambling to address his concerns and find other ways to combat climate change. Meanwhile, less than 50 percent of Americans appear to support efforts to significantly address the crisis.

Polling conducted from October 19 to 21 by Yahoo News/YouGov found that only 48 percent of Americans favor cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. Meanwhile, more than a quarter (27 percent) are opposed to the idea.

Similarly, the survey results showed that just 48 percent back limiting greenhouse gas emissions from gasoline-powered cars and coal-fired power plants. Nearly a third (30 percent) opposed the proposals altogether.

Climate change emergency
A new poll found that less than half of Americans support proposals that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Above, climate activists protest outside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce after scaling the building on October 14, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Even less—just 43 percent—support a proposal to decrease emissions by rewarding power utilities that switch to renewable energy while requiring utilities that continue to burn coal and oil to pay fines over time. Only 45 percent approve of "a program that requires polluters to pay a fee for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit" that also includes "a rebate for families making less than $400,000 per year" to counter possible price hikes on "gasoline, electricity or home heating fuel."

Only half (50 percent) of Americans surveyed view climate change as an "existential threat" despite the dire warnings from scientists for years. While a substantial majority of Democrats (78 percent) view the climate crisis as an "existential threat," just 45 percent of independents and less than a quarter (24 percent) of Republicans polled see it that way.

Climate scientists have repeatedly warned for decades of the growing crisis caused by manmade pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Back in 2018, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that major reforms worldwide were necessary within just over a decade to prevent the worst impacts of the crisis.

More than 99 percent of scientific research on climate change confirms that the crisis is being caused by human activity, according to a review published this week. However, 45 percent of Republicans, 29 percent of independents and 4 percent of Democrats continue to deny the role humans play in causing climate change, according to the new polling data.

Meanwhile, the future of Biden's and Democrats' major climate change proposals remains uncertain due to Manchin's opposition. Progressive Democrats have slammed the moderate lawmaker for his stance on the issue, noting that he directly profits from the coal industry. Last year, Manchin garnered about $500,000 in earnings from a coal brokerage he founded, which is now managed by his son.

"Senator Joe Manchin has veto power over the country's transition to a clean energy economy. The tyranny of Joe Manchin is a tragedy for the rest of us," Representative Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat, tweeted last Friday.

"We have a moral obligation and a governing mandate to pass policy that addresses climate change," the official Twitter account of the Congressional Progressive Caucus posted on Saturday. "Inaction is not an option. Progressives in Congress are fighting for policies that address the scope of the crisis."