Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Important findings in the first study on Virginians opinion re: climate change

Last night I attended the presentation of the results of a study "What do Virginians think about Climate Change?" and subsequent panel discussion. I sat next to Mike Kruse, owner of Evergreen Recycling and volunteer for Appalachian Voices. I would say around 50-60 people were in attendance at the Miller Center.

The study was divided into four sections and was conducted via phone interviews all across the state in September (660 residents responded):

I Perceptions
II Factors which shape beliefs about global warming
III Governmental Responsibility
IV Response to Policy Alternatives

I have taken the liberty to share my personal summary of the findings with you:

*The study wanted to find out the level of concern among residents and also public opinion on solutions. The study found that 75% of Virginians believe in climate change.
*Personal experience drives people's beliefs more than anything else (i.e. rather than scientific fact)
*Virginians believe that state and local governments have a shared responsibility with the federal government on how climate change should be addressed
*Dr. Barry Rabe, one of the authors of the study, noted that the study seemed to point to a discrepancy between policy analysts and citizens in the approach they envision will work in producing solutions. He commented that policy analysts believe some kind of market-based approach is necessary to achieve measurable reductions, whereas the citizens seem to be requesting a variety of regulatory strategies as well.
*[I would like to add, I thought one important facet of this issue was overlooked, and that is personal responsibility (and perhaps that was out of the intended scope of this study). I would like to hear what citizens are ready/willing to do on a personal level. I believe an essential piece of the solution puzzle is not only market-based solutions, local/state/federal government regulations and incentives, but personal action and responsibility when it comes to our day-to-day behavior.]
*One dramatic percentage was the number of Republicans who believe in global climate change 57% compared to Democrats 88%.
*Virginia has seen an increase of 38% emissions -between 1990 and 2005- more than double the national average - meaning we've got work to do.
*In 2006, Governor Kaine passed the first every Energy Plan for Virginia which included 30% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as a goal, as well as the formation of the Virginia Climate Change Commission which will deliver their report this coming December.
*After an audience member called into question the scientific validity of climate change, the author reminded him that the study was on public perception. Speaking for himself, he reminded the gentleman that evidence for climate change found by scholars all around the world at this point is "voluminous." Indeed.
*Rabe noted that the state leaders on reduction of greenhouse gases and other policies come from both Democrats and Republicans.

For more in-depth analysis of this study and a national study, stay tuned. Coming December 11-12, the National Conference on Climate Governance will be held right here in Charlottesville at UVA's Miller Center (by invitation only) but will also be available via webcast.


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