An overwhelming majority of Californians believe the state should act to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new poll, while residents narrowly oppose hydraulic fracturing and support construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
Climate change represents a concrete threat for a majority of Californians, according to the new Public Policy Institute of California poll. More than three-fourths of respondents -- 77 percent -- called climate change a "very serious" or "somewhat serious" threat to the economy and their way of life, while more than half reported being "very concerned" about the threat of global warming fueling more severe wildfires.
Nearly two-thirds of residents and 59 percent of likely voters surveyed want the government to act now to limit climate change -- whose effects are already evident, according to 65 percent of respondents -- rather than wait for the economy to mend.
The level of support for policies to curb climate change affirms the principal behind California's carbon-auction market, which began functioning in November and had raised more than $200 million through mid-June. Sixty-seven percent of adults supported the law creating the market, including 49 percent of Republicans (the bill was signed into law by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger).
Still, Californians are generally uninformed about the steps their state government has taken to dampen emissions, with 54 percent saying they had heard "nothing at all" about California's cap-and-trade program.
Majorities of Republican, Democratic and independent adults also backed policies to require more energy-efficient buildings and appliances; to alter land use and transportation policies so people would be less reliant on driving; and to limit emissions issuing from power plants, oil refineries and industrial plants.
On two divisive issues at the intersection of energy and the environment, Californians were less certain.
A partisan fissure ran through public perceptions of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," an energy extraction process that multiple California lawmakers have sought to regulate this session. The poll found that 51 percent of California adults surveyed oppose the drilling method, which involves blasting a mix of sand, water and chemicals deep underground.
Within that 51 percent, 60 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of independents opposed fracking, and 49 percent of Republicans who support it.
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline, a vigorously disputed project that would transport oil from Canada to refineries in Texas, narrowly won the support of a majority of Californians (51 percent). Just 38 percent of Democrats backed the project, but 70 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of independents affirmed it.
Gov. Jerry Brown got lower marks for his environmental record than for his performance overall. 48 percent of Californians approve of the job he's doing as governor -- including a resounding majority of Democrats -- but just 39 percent approve of his environmental record, including a slimmer 55 percent of Democrats.
The Legislature's approval ratings mirror its numbers on the environment. 36 percent of Californians and 33 percent of likely voters like the job the Legislature is doing in general; on the environment, those numbers inch up to 38 percent and 34 percent.
PHOTO: In this March 29, 2013 file photo, workers tend to a well head during a hydraulic fracturing operation at an Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. gas well outside Rifle, in western Colorado. Associated Press/Brennan Linsley