Most believe state should act now

A new survey indicates that most Delawareans believe climate change and sea level rise are happening and that the state should act now to reduce effects.

It’s the third time since 2009 that the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has surveyed citizens to measure knowledge and perception of climate change issues.

The data found in “Delaware Residents’ Opinions on Climate Change and Sea Level Rise” will be used to help create Delaware’s Climate Action Plan. The survey of 1,126 Delaware adults was done by Standage Market Research in November and December, in partnership with the University of Delaware Center for Political Communication.

The survey found that 77% of Delawareans are completely or mostly convinced that climate change is happening, up 7% since 2009.

“Over the past decade the percentage of Delawareans concerned about this issue has increased,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin. “We continue to experience the effects of sea level rise, hotter temperatures and more frequent intense storms, but we are also working toward solutions as we continue to develop Delaware’s Climate Action Plan.”

The department’s Division of Climate, Coastal and Energy hosted a first round of public workshops on the action plan in early March. This year, they’ll continue to reach out to citizens to create a plan “aimed at minimizing the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change and maximizing our resilience to the climate affects we’re already experiencing.”

A report on their findings is due in December.

Perceptions

According to the survey, 77% of Delawareans are completely or mostly convinced that climate change is happening, and almost as many (71%) are completely or mostly convinced that sea level rise is happening.

Seventy percent agree that we should take immediate action to reduce the effects of climate change, and 64% say they can personally take action to do so. Sixty-three percent also say that we should take immediate action to reduce the effects of sea level rise.

A majority (56%) say they have personally experienced or observed local climate change effects. A growing number have personally experienced sea level rise (47%, up from 28% in 2014 and 22% in 2009).

About a quarter (23%) follow news about climate change very closely, while half (50%) follow it somewhat closely. Only 16% say they know a great deal about climate change, while 55% say they know a moderate amount. The rest say they know a little or nothing.

Strategies

As far as CO2 emissions control, approval for increasing conservation of forested and agricultural lands registered more than 80%. Large majorities support stronger air pollution controls on business and industry (80%), requiring an increasing percentage of electricity from renewable sources (74%) and requiring stronger energy efficiency standards on household appliances (73%). Requiring an increasing percentage of vehicles sold to be powered by electricity is favored by 53%.

Large majorities also support strategies addressing sea level rise, including preserving undeveloped land and natural features to allow for sea level rise to occur (82%), changing building codes and regulations to reduce risk in flood-prone areas (79%), avoiding building new structures in areas at risk (77%), avoiding construction of new roads and infrastructure in areas at risk (74%), and elevating buildings in areas of risk using private funds (64%).

Effect

The survey found that Delawareans support increasing research on the implications of climate change and sea level rise.

Seventy-nine percent favor more research on how climate change will affect agriculture in Delaware. Almost as many (76%) support more research on how climate change will affect health and 76% on how it will affect the state economy. About three-quarters (73%) favor increasing research on how climate change will affect vulnerable communities, such as the elderly and low-income residents, and 71% support research on how sea level rise will affect property values.

A combined 56% of Delawareans think climate change will personally harm them a great deal (21%) or a moderate amount (35%). A larger combined percentage of Delawareans (77%), think climate change will harm future generations a great deal (61%) or a moderate amount (16%).

View the survey results in their entirety at dnrec.delaware.gov.