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Addressing Climate Change: Most Voters Approve Cantwell-Collins Approach

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Message to Congress: If you want to pass significant energy legislation soon and please the most voters, you don't have to read tea leaves to divine how. Move forward with the Cantwell-Collins CLEAR Act (Carbon Limits and Energy for America's Renewal). Most American voters want it. How do we know?

Let's back up a little. Recently, Stanford psychologist Jon Krosnick analyzed the most high-profile American polls on global warming and clean energy. Based on these polls, headlines had been touting that the percentage of Americans over the past year who think there is solid evidence that the planet is warming had declined from 77% to 57%, and those who believe the warming is due to human activities had declined to about 34%. But is that what the pollsters had really asked? Krosnick found that in fact the poll's flawed questions led to misleading answers, which then led to misleading headlines. For example, consider the Pew poll's question, "From what you've read and heard, is there solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades, or not?" It asks the reader to judge what the media perceives about global warming, not the respondent's personal opinion, Krosnick argues. Some questions, as in a CNN poll, required yes/no answers on two concepts simultaneously, so that if one disagreed with just one of them, the resulting answer was misleading. Avoiding these types of flawed questions, Krosnick then performed his own survey. The simple questions directly queried people's perceptions about a warming world and solutions to climate change, giving them multiple choice options to express their answers.

What Krosnick, and other polls (ABC News/Washington Post; Ipsos/McClatchy) with simple direct questions found, was that 70% or more of Americans DO believe the planet is heating up. Over 70% of Krosnick's respondents believe that global warming was due to human activities. Krosnick then queried Americans about solutions to climate change. Over 80% want the federal government to regulate air pollution from businesses, and 76% wanted government to regulate greenhouse gas emissions specifically. Over 70% did not want to tax energy (gas and electricity) to reduce consumption. But over 80% favored government requiring, or offering tax breaks, to: 1) utilities to make electricity from solar, wind and water energy; 2) create more energy efficient cars and appliances; 3) build more energy efficient homes and buildings. These are all solutions that we promote in our free online book, Cool the Earth, Save the Economy, as "AAA": affordable, technologically accessible, and politically acceptable.

Back to options for energy legislation. While Senators Lieberman, Bingaman and Baucus start to form legislation (Baucus is creating a bill to overhaul federal oversight of offshore drilling), Senators Cantwell (D-Washington) and Collins (R-Maine) have created the bipartisan CLEAR Act, a brief bill which emphasizes regulating greenhouse gas emissions from businesses, and creating more government incentives to increase clean energy sources. Just what most American voters want, when you ask them plainly and directly.

With the magic word bipartisan describing it, and an overwhelming majority of American voters supporting its tenets, this is one bill that President Obama should be inspired to promote strongly to all of Congress.

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