A new YouGov poll conducted by the Guardian, and in collaboration with Vice News and Covering Climate Now, has revealed that an overwhelming majority of Americans blame oil and gas companies for the worsening climate crisis.
One thing is clear, the US is divided over the causes of this climate emergency, following the fossil fuel industry’s long campaign to downplay and deny climate science. The division falls largely along political lines, with Democrats and Republicans at divergent views over the source of climate disinformation.
Capturing the opinions of 1,000 surveyed American adults, the poll found that 70 per cent were aware that global warming was happening. Also, more than 60 per cent indicated oil and gas companies completely or mostly responsible.
However, seeing that Democrats overwhelmingly (89%) accept the scientific basis of the climate emergency, the polls split among Republicans. Just 42 per cent of Republicans agreed that global warming is a reality while 36 per cent denied it. The rest of the pollsters said they didn’t know.
“The findings [provide] insight into the climate change activism and the mounting public pressure on the oil and gas industry as it faces dozens of lawsuits by states and municipalities. The plaintiffs in such lawsuits demand that companies pay for the financial costs associated with the environmental devastation caused by burning fossil fuels.”The Poll
After finding out that oil and gas companies knew about their products’ impact on climate change, a majority of Americans favoured the central aims of the law suits.
Democrats and Republicans divide on Oil/gas companies paying for damages
Some respondents (a little more than 50%) wanted oil and gas companies to pay for the damage caused by extreme weather events driven by the climate crisis. Also, 60 per cent said the oil and gas industry should pay more to improve infrastructure to withstand the fires and floods caused by global warming.
Despite the fact that Democrats and Republicans are at odds on many climate issues, the poll also raised concerns about the challenges litigants face in attempting to hold the fossil fuel industry to account, especially in more conservative parts of the country.
There are some issues about the climate crisis that cuts across political lines. Broadly, Americans agree that all industries should be held accountable for their misdeeds. Eighty per cent contended manufacturers should warn consumers of harmful products and 69 per cent said companies should stop selling them.
The poll also reflects Americans’ perceptions of oil companies. The poll showed that Exxon, the US’s largest petroleum firm, and shell have high positive ratings among Republicans but high negatives among Democrats.
Degree of Responsibility for changing climate
Also, nearly two-thirds of Republicans said oil and gas firms bore some degree of responsibility for the changing climate even though fewer of them acknowledged the existence of global warming.
Twenty-eight per cent of Republicans said the industry bore the biggest weight of responsibility while 35 per cent said it was somewhat responsible. A little more than 80 per cent of Democrats said oil and gas companies were completely or mostly responsible for causing climate change.
However, politics played out again when respondents were asked about the specifics of the fossil fuel industry’s misdeeds. Democrats said oil and gas companies lied about the existence of climate change, and their part in creating it, at more than three times the rate of Republicans. Less than half of Republicans said oil and gas companies had done nothing wrong.
Ultimately, 45 per cent of Americans said the companies lied about contributing to climate change. Only a smaller percentage said the industry had deceived the public about the existence of climate change and ignored their own scientists’ findings.