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Geographies of belief: Mapping what Ohioans say about global warming

David Beach  |  04/08/15 @ 3:00pm  |  Posted in Clean energy, Climate

Most Ohioans believe that global warming is happening, and they support programs to develop renewable energy sources and regulate carbon emissions. But they are less sure that global warming is caused by human activities or that it’s something to worry about in the near future.

Climate of opinion in Ohio counties<br />Screenshot of the interactive Yale Climate Opinion Map (environment.yale.edu/poe/v2014/), showing a range of opinions on global warming in Ohio counties.

The Yale Project on Climate Change Communication has been polling Americans’ opinions about global warming since 2008. Now the project has developed an interactive mapping tool to display this extensive opinion data at the state, county, and Congressional district levels. It’s a great way to see the geographic diversity of opinion across the country -- and a great way to understand the nuances of public perceptions.

If you zoom in on Ohio Congressional districts, for example, you can see that a majority of adults in all districts believe that global warming is happening -- even in the coal-mining 6th district of southeast Ohio. A similar majority across all districts agrees that global warming will harm future generations.

It’s also interesting that, while Republicans in Congress are fighting the Obama administration’s efforts to set carbon dioxide pollution limits on existing coal-fired power plants, majorities of adults in all Ohio Congressional districts are in favor of such limits, including the districts of Republicans John Boehner (60%), David Joyce (62%), Jim Renacci (63%), and Bob Gibbs (61%).

Statewide, while 59% of Ohioans believe that global warming is happening, 47% believe it’s caused mostly by human activities and only 39% believe that most scientists accept the fact of global warming. This drop-off in understanding is one reason why respected scientific organizations, such as the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS), are encouraging scientists to speak up about the reality of climate change and the overwhelming scientific consensus.

Many Ohioans also have not grasped the urgency of the risks of global warming. A majority (59%) agree that global warming will harm future generations. But only 40% believe that global warming is already harming people in the U.S. This belief runs counter to the mounting evidence that climate change is already happening today and is affecting all regions of the country.

Finally, the Ohio map shows another disconnect between public opinion and government policy. While 58% of Ohio adults favor requiring utilities to produce 20% of electricity from renewable sources, the Ohio General Assembly recently backtracked on the state energy policy that moved in that direction.

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