This year’s Earth Day comes as California emerges from a winter and spring marked by extreme precipitation, following years of drought and last fall’s historic heat wave. Over the past several months, Californians have been buffeted by more than a dozen atmospheric rivers that have caused more than $5 billion in damage across the state—with more damage expected when the Sierra Nevada snowpack melts in the coming weeks. As climate change becomes more clearly linked to extreme weather, what do Californians think about the need to counter its effects?
According to the February 2023 PPIC Statewide Survey, three in four Californians think it is necessary to take steps to counter the effects of climate change right away, while one in four say it is not necessary to take steps yet. Overwhelming shares of Democrats and independents—compared to just one in three Republicans—think that steps should be taken right away.
While more than two in three across regions and demographic groups think action should be taken right away, there are some differences within these groups. For example, more than three in four in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area think action should be take right away, compared to two in three in the Central Valley, and seven in ten in the Inland Empire and Orange/San Diego. There are also differences across racial/ethnic groups: Latinos are most likely to see a need for immediate action (83%), while whites are the least likely to hold this view (66%). The belief that action needs to be taken right away declines with increasing age (78% 18 to 34, 75% 35 to 54, 68% 55 and older).
Since we began periodically asking a similar question about countering the effects of global warming in 2003, overwhelming majorities of Californians—ranging from 73% to 81%—have said that action should be taken right away. The shares holding this view have been similar across regions and demographic groups, but the partisan divide has widened over the past two decades. The share of Democrats saying steps should be taken right away has risen from 80% to 95%, while the share of Republicans holding this view has fallen from 57% to 33%. The share of independents who think action should be taken right away has remained close to 75% over this period of time.
Given this sustained sense of urgency, it makes sense that most Californians have been supportive of the state’s efforts to address climate change for some time. The state has long been a leader in environmental policymaking, and most say this leadership is important. Stay tuned to the PPIC Statewide Survey as we continue to track views on the environment and climate change.