How eager are we to fight global warming?
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On this 37th Earth Day, most Pennsylvanians think global warming is an inconvenient truth, but not many are willing to be inconvenienced enough to do anything about it.
Seven out of 10 Pennsylvanians agree that global warming exists and is a concern, according to a survey by two Mansfield University researchers released last week, but significantly fewer are willing to do so much as change a light bulb to help address the problem.
Instead, they are looking to government or science for solutions, said Tim Madigan, associate professor of sociology at Mansfield University.
"Our results suggest that a majority of people in the state are not very committed to taking broad action against global warming," said Mr. Madigan, who along with co-researcher Dr. Janice Purk surveyed 920 Pennsylvanians over the age of 18 about their willingness to take 10 specific steps to reduce global climate change.
The survey results do show that the number of people who agree that global warming is occurring is up from 5-in-10 in 1999, to 7-in-10, a significant increase, but the impact on behavioral change has not been as great.
The 10 personal actions that people were asked if they do, or would do, were: use compact fluorescent light bulbs, compost kitchen scraps, take reusable bags to the grocery store, buy from environmentally friendly companies, wash dishes by hand, own a hybrid car, purchase a solar power system for their home, allow clothes to air dry, buy a windmill and stop eating meat.
If those surveyed were already taking the step, they received a score of two for that item. If they said they would take the step, they received a score of one. Those unwilling to change got a zero for that item.
Out of 20 possible points, half of those surveyed scored a six or lower on the "action index," which the researchers created to measure the feasibility of a social solution to global warming. If few people are willing to change their behavior, a social solution is impossible and government action or scientific innovation, or both, will be required.
"Since the majority of people are not very willing to change many of their behaviors, and belief in global warming is not strongly related to taking action, the social solution to the problem of global warming does not look very promising," Mr. Madigan said.
Slightly more than half of those surveyed said they would use fluorescent light bulbs, take reusable bags to the grocery and buy from environmentally friendly companies. Slightly less than half said they'd feed the composter.
Only 41 percent said they'd be willing to drive a hybrid car or install solar panels; 38 percent were willing to wash dishes by hand; 30 percent were willing to stop eating meat. Just 26 percent would let their clothes air dry and 25 percent said they would buy a windmill.
Only 13 percent of those surveyed had seen former Vice President Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth," and those who had seen it scored less than a point higher than those who had not.
"Assuming that Gore's movie had a casual impact," Mr. Madigan said, "it would take many more such movies to change attitudes and behaviors enough to reverse the trends as he calls for in his book and movie."
The random telephone survey was done at the end of February and the beginning of March of residents throughout the state and has a 3.2 percent margin of error.
First Published April 21, 2007 5:35 pm