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Blog Post · July 20, 2023

Video: Californians and the Environment

photo - Keyhole Arch during Sunset

After battling a prolonged drought, California has been hit in recent months with massive storms, a snowpack that led to large amounts of water runoff, and then intense heat waves,  a weather pivot that is on the minds of Californians in PPIC’s July statewide survey. Last week, PPIC associate survey director Dean Bonner presented key findings from this latest survey and discussed takeaways with survey director and Miller Chair in Public Policy Mark Baldassare.

Most Californians across the state believe that climate change is affecting their local communities, and they favor state efforts to take action to prepare for these effects:

  • 45% of Californians say an extreme weather event has affected them in the past two years, and an overwhelming majority believe climate change contributes to extreme weather;
  • About 7 in 10 adults favor the goal for the state to reduce emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 as well as the goal to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2045.

Yet even as most Californians assert that they believe stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost, most are unwilling to pay more to use alternative energy:

  • 61% favor 100% of California’s energy coming from renewable sources by 2045;
  • 57% are unwilling to pay more for electricity from renewable sources.

“Californians continue to support most of these policies… despite the fact that they aren’t willing to spend the money,” Bonner said, expressing some surprise at the continued support in light of Californian’s worries over the consequences of environmental laws, such as how they might harm the economy. “They believe [environmental policies] are going to increase gas prices, and there are mixed readings … as it relates to jobs.”

Across California, residents agree on policies that protect coastal regions—regardless of whether they live inland or near the coast, Californians value the state’s oceans and beaches:

  • 67% of Californians view ocean and beach conditions as very important to the economy and quality of life in the state;
  • Fewer than 4 in 10 Californians support oil drilling off the coast; overwhelming majorities favor wind and wave power as well as building desalination plants off the coast;
  • Nearly all Californians agree on maintaining rules and boundaries for marine protected areas to protect fish, wildlife, and their habitats.

While a majority of Californians support the way in which the governor and the state legislature are handling environmental issues, and they want the state to respond to and prepare for climate change and extreme weather, they also want a say on state measures that address environmental concerns. “Californians think it is very important to have voters make laws and change policies on environmental issues through the ballot box,” Baldassare said; it’s an area where people agree across party lines. “Californians want a voice on these issues.”


climate change extreme weather green house gas emissions Political Landscape Population renewable energy Statewide Survey voters wildlife