Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Most Americans believe climate change is real, but fewer see it as a threat

President Obama on Tuesday laid out his plan for combating climate change, including a series of executive actions he intends to take in order to get around likely congressional opposition.  But while Obama might be able to side-step Congress, another challenge he faces is public opinion in the U.S.

While a survey in March found that 69% of Americans agree there is solid evidence the earth is warming, only 33% described it as a “very” serious problem, while another 32% said it was “somewhat serious.” Back in January, when Americans were asked about what should be a “top priority” for the president and Congress this year, dealing with global warming ranked last, with 28% holding that view.

Separately, a Pew Research survey of 39 nations conducted between March and May found that 40% of Americans say climate change as a major threat to the U.S., compared to a median of 54% in the global survey.

On specific issues, Obama said he would not approve building the controversial 1,700-mile Keystone Pipeline , connecting Canadian oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries if it was shown that doing so would significantly worsen climate change. The March survey found that 66% of Americans favored the building of the Keystone pipeline.

Obama also said he would have the Environmental Protection Agency draft new standards to reduce carbon emissions from new and existing power plants. Our survey conducted in February found 62% in favor of setting stricter emission limits on power plants, with Democrats strongly in favor and Republicans divided.