Even before Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the East Coast Monday night, climate scientists were warning that tropical storms and hurricanes could become -- or are becoming -- more frequent and severe as a result of climate change. A recent HuffPost/YouGov poll shows that most Americans think humans are at least one contributor to climate change and that most support new environmental standards on vehicles and coal plants designed in part to combat greenhouse gases.
The survey -- which was conducted Oct. 24-25, before Hurricane Sandy hit -- found that 32 percent of Americans say that human activity is the primary cause of climate change and another 31 percent say human activity is a contributing factor, but not necessarily the main cause. Fourteen percent of respondents said that human activity is not a contributing factor, and another 6 percent said climate change is not occurring at all.
Respondents were largely supportive of new Environmental Protection Agency standards for fuel economy and coal-burning power plants. Twenty-two percent said they support new EPA standards increasing the average fuel efficiency of cars to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2024, and 36 percent said those regulations should be strengthened even further. Seventeen percent opposed the new standards. Similarly, 20 percent said they supported new emissions standards for coal-burning power plants, 33 percent said the rules should go further, and 21 percent were opposed.
Respondents to the survey were also relatively confident that U.S. policies could help fight global warming: 43 percent said the country could help curb global warming with the right policies, 24 percent said no policies the U.S. could implement would curb global warming, and 13 percent said global warming was not occurring.
Although polling on the subject is sparse, some other surveys have found that many Americans think climate change might affect the number and severity of hurricanes. For example, in a survey conducted in October and November of 2011 by Yale and Mason-Dixon universities, 58 percent of Americans said that global warming would cause at least "a few more" intense hurricanes over the next 20 years if nothing were done to address it.
The HuffPost/YouGov survey was conducted online among 1,000 U.S. adults and has a 4.4 percentage point margin of error. It used a sample that was selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church