New Yorkers Fear Impacts of Climate Change, And Want to Act

Residents Say Citizens, Business and Government Should Do More


Global Warming Survey

"Do you think global warming will have dangerous impacts on people in New York City or not?"

New York, March 6, 2008— A new survey finds that most residents of New York City are convinced that global climate change is happening now, and believe that aggressive measures should be taken against it locally.

The survey, the first-ever such poll in New York, was designed and funded by researchers at Columbia and Yale universities, and led by the Columbia Earth Institute’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED).

Key findings include:

  • A large majority of New Yorkers are convinced that global warming is happening (78%) Of this number, 82 % believe that global warming is caused mainly by human activities or caused equally by humans and natural changes.
  • 60% are personally worried about global warming.
  • Over 20% believe that global warming is already having dangerous impacts on the city, and an additional 30% believe dangerous impacts are imminent within 10 years. Between 70% and 85% of those who believe in global warming think it will eventually cause more heat wave, energy blackouts, worse storms, hurricanes and tornadoes, increased rates of disease, and flooding of subways, tunnels and airports. 69% say it is likely that parts of New York City will need to be abandoned due to rising sea levels over the next 50 years.

According to recent studies, global warming is projected to have significant impacts on the city. Regional summer temperatures are projected to increase 3.82 – 4.95°F (2.12 – 2.75°C) by the 2050s. Summer heat-related mortality could increase 55 percent by the 2020s and more than double by the 2050s. Sea level may rise nearly 12 inches by the 2020s, and nearly 24 inches by the 2050s.

“Recent vivid and memorable media coverage of climate change impacts around the world and domestically have brought global warming onto the radar screen of the residents of New York, elevating it to a risk worth worrying about,” said Elke Weber, co-director of CRED, professor of psychology and the Jerome A. Chazen Professor of International Business at Columbia University.

“New Yorkers believe global warming is going to hit home hard and want their leaders to act,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change (YPCC) and co-principal investigator at CRED.

New Yorkers voiced support for initiatives such as energy efficiency to combat warming These included much of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030, a long-term strategy to reduce New York’s greenhouse gas emissions and manage population growth. Large majorities said that the utilities, the state and Mayor Michael Bloomberg himself should be doing even more to address global warming.

“The results are noteworthy because they show New Yorkers support an aggressive climate policy agenda and are willing to pay to see it implemented,” said Steve Hammer, director of the Urban Energy Program at Columbia’s Center for Energy, Marine Transportation and Public Policy.

A large majority, for instance, support making buildings more energy efficient. When asked who should pay, 60% said the city should require developers to pay for new buildings; however, for existing buildings, nearly the same number said that the city should help pay. Two thirds support a $2.50 surcharge on the average household’s monthly electric bill for a special fund to help make buildings more energy efficient and to support public education on energy use. Three quarters support a city subsidy to encourage building owners to replace old furnaces, water heaters, air conditioners, light bulbs, and insulation--even if the subsidy costs the average household $5 a month more in higher taxes. And two thirds support installation of solar panels on city-owned buildings, even if the electricity generated is significantly more expensive than what government normally pays for electricity.

New Yorkers are also willing to shoulder personal responsibility. 71% said they are willing to buy compact fluorescent light bulbs; make their views on global warming clear to politicians (67%); use less air conditioning (66%); and turn down their thermostat in the winter (60%). They were more divided on the mayor’s congestion pricing plan to charge an $8 fee to all motorists entering Manhattan below 86th Street between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. When told the city will use the revenue to improve the subway, train, and bus systems, 53 percent of the public supported the idea, while 42 percent opposed it.

The survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research International, was based on English and Spanish telephone interviews with 1,000 adults living in New York’s five boroughs in November and December 2007.