From September 12 to 14, Governor Jerry Brown will co-chair the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. This gathering of world leaders will review achievements to date and discuss next steps in meeting the international goals established to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. How do Californians feel about their state playing such a prominent role in the global warming policy arena?
In the July PPIC Statewide Survey, a majority of California adults told us that California’s climate change leadership around the world is very (54%) or somewhat (24%) important to them; findings are similar among likely voters (51% very, 22% somewhat). Last July, after the Trump Administration’s decision to exit the Paris Agreement on climate change, a similar proportion of adults (58% very, 23% somewhat) and likely voters (52% very, 20% somewhat) said the state’s leadership was important. Today, overwhelming majorities of Democrats (95%) and independents (78%) and 41% of Republicans say it is important that California acts as a leader around the world. Majorities across age, education, gender, income, racial/ethnic groups, and regions of the state say this is important. Six in ten or more Latinos (68%) and African Americans (65%), Democrats (67%), San Francisco Bay Area residents (60%), and those with children under 18 (60%) say this is “very” important.
These views are aligned with Californians’ willingness for the state to determine its own destiny in this policy arena. In the July survey, majorities of Californians (65% adults, 62% likely voters) favor having the state government make its own policies, separate from the federal government, to address the issue of global warming. Since we first asked this question in July 2005—throughout changes in presidents, governors, and party leadership in Washington, DC and Sacramento—more than half of Californians have favored state action on this issue.
Today, solid majorities of Democrats (82%) and independents (61%) and 29% of Republicans favor the state government making its own global warming policies. Majorities across age, education, gender, income, racial/ethnic groups, and regions of the state are in favor. Seven in ten or more are in favor among residents in Los Angeles (73%) and the San Francisco Bay Area (73%), Asian Americans (71%) and Latinos (70%), those under age 35 (75%), and college graduates (73%). Majority support has also been consistent for state policies (i.e., AB 32, SB 32) aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
What explains this California “exceptionalism” when it comes to climate change actions? In the July PPIC survey, two in three Californians (67% adults, 69% likely voters) say the effects of global warming have already begun. In thinking about the possible impacts of global warming in California, most residents express concerns about more severe wildfires (62% very, 23% somewhat), ocean warming (50% very, 28% somewhat), and rising sea levels (45% very, 29% somewhat). More than eight in ten Californians say that the issue of global warming is personally important to them (28% extremely, 34% very, 20% somewhat). These findings suggest that recent weather events—combined with a growing body of scientific evidence on climate change—have tapped into the long tradition of environmental stewardship in California.
This global meeting occurs at a critical moment for the state. PPIC is hosting related events and, along with many Californians, we look forward to learning more about what Governor Brown called “the existential threat of climate change” in convening this summit.