Poll Finds New Yorkers Worried About Climate Change
NEW YORK, New York, March 6, 2008 (ENS) - A large majority of New York City residents are convinced that global warming is happening now and leaders should do more to address the threat, according to the results of the first survey of New Yorkers' opinions about climate change.

The survey shows that, in line with their concerns about climate change, large majorities of respondents say that the Con Edison utility (82%), Governor Eliot Spitzer (75%), and Mayor Michael Bloomberg (72%) should be doing more to address global warming.

A majority (69%) say it is likely that parts of New York City will have to be abandoned due to rising sea levels over the next 50 years. More than eight million people live in the low-lying city, and it has hundreds of miles of coastline that are vulnerable to hurricane threats.

The survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research International, is based on English and Spanish telephone interviews with a representative sample of 1,000 adults living in New York City's five boroughs. The interviews took place from November 28 to December 16, 2007.

The survey was designed and funded by researchers at Columbia and Yale Universities, and led by the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia.

"New Yorkers believe global warming is going to hit home hard and want their leaders to act," said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change and co-principal investigator at the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University.

New Yorker worried about global warming at the Step It Up demonstration April 21, 2007 (Photo by Justin Shockley)

Seventy-eight percent of respondents said that global warming is occurring, and of that number, 82 percent believe that global warming is caused mainly by human activities or caused equally by humans and natural changes.

A majority of New Yorkers (60%) say they are personally worried about global warming. Further, 22 percent believe that global warming is already having dangerous impacts on the city while an additional 30 percent believe dangerous impacts are imminent within the next 10 years.

Large majorities of New Yorkers believe that global warming will cause more heat waves (85%); energy blackouts (79%); worse storms, hurricanes and tornadoes (79%); increased rates of disease (72%); and flooding of subways, tunnels and airports (70%).

"Recent vivid and memorable media coverage of climate change impacts around the world and domestically have brought global warming onto the radar screen of the residents of New York, elevating it to a risk worth worrying about," said Elke Weber, co-director of the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, and a professor of psychology and international business at Columbia.

Weber and his colleagues cite studies showing that regional summer temperatures are projected to increase between 3.82 and 4.95°Fahrenheit by the 2050s, and sea level in the region may rise nearly 12 inches by the 2020s and nearly 24 inches by the 2050s.

Summer heat-related mortality could increase 55 percent by the 2020s and more than double by the 2050s.

In April 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled PlaNYC 2030, a long-term strategy to reduce New York City's greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent and manage future population growth.

Mayor Bloomberg announced last week that as part of PlaNYC the Taxi and Limousine Commission will require the 10,000 black car fleet that services corporate clients to increase fuel efficiency standards to a level currently achievable only by using hybrid technology.

This survey measured public support for several initiatives proposed by PlaNYC, including energy efficiency for buildings and congestion pricing.

"The results are noteworthy because they show New Yorkers support an aggressive climate policy agenda and are willing to pay to see it implemented," said Steve Hammer, director of the Urban Energy Program at Columbia's Center for Energy, Marine Transportation and Public Policy.

The survey found that large majorities of New Yorkers support making buildings around the city more energy efficient. When asked who should pay for these improvements, a majority (60%) said that for new buildings, the city should require developers to pay. For existing buildings, a majority (58%) said that the city should help to pay.

The survey also found that 66 percent of New Yorkers support a $2.50 surcharge on the average household's monthly electric bill for a special fund to help make buildings more energy efficient and to support public education on energy use.

Interviewers found that 76 percent support a city subsidy to encourage building owners to replace old furnaces, water heaters, air conditioners, light bulbs, and insulation, even if the subsidy costs the average household $5 a month more in higher taxes.

And 66 percent support the installation of solar panels on city-owned buildings, even if the electricity generated is significantly more expensive than what city government normally pays for its electricity.

New Yorkers were divided on the Mayor's congestion pricing plan to charge an $8 fee to all motorists entering Manhattan below 86th Street between 6 am and 6 pm. When told the city will use the revenue to improve the subway, train, and bus systems, 53 percent of the public supported the idea, while 42 percent opposed it.

New Yorkers are willing to take on some of the responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The majority of respondents said they are willing to buy compact fluorescent light bulbs (71%), spend $5 more a month for electricity produced from renewable energy sources (68%), use less air conditioning (66%), and turn down their thermostats in the winter (60%).

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