3 of 4 Americans okay more taxes to help environment

Two recent national surveys reveal almost three-quarters of Americans say they would pay more taxes to local government to fight global warming, a dramatic turnaround from a 2006 poll that found only three in 10 Americans thought global warming is caused by humans, and less than 40 percent thought it was an immediate threat.

Americans were willing to pay more money in property taxes, home costs and utility fees to support initiatives that would encourage people to use less energy and get that energy from alternative sources, the surveys conducted by Yale University showed. They follow other polls that have found concern for the environment is growing among Americans and bolder action is desired.

A poll conducted by The Associated Press and Stanford University last month showed Americans are unhappy with the current state of the environment and how the government has been handling environmental issues.

Another national Yale poll conducted in July found a majority of Americans believe society must take action to reduce the effects of global warming, partly by enacting a new national treaty that would require much more drastic reductions in carbon dioxide than those required by the Kyoto Protocol. This earlier poll also showed that about 50 percent of Americans say they are personally worried about global warming.

"Nearly half of Americans now believe that global warming is either already having dangerous impacts on people around the world or will in the next 10 years — a 20 percentage-point increase since 2004. These results indicate a sea change in public opinion," said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of Yale Project on Climate Change, in response to the findings of the earlier poll.

"City and local leaders are critical players in the effort to reduce global warming, and it's clear that their constituents want action," Leiserowitz added. "The public is on board and willing to help foot the bill. All that's left to do now is act."

The results of the new surveys found that 74 percent of those surveyed would support local regulations requiring all newly constructed homes to be more energy efficient, even if it would increase the initial cost of the new home. And 72 percent of respondents said they would support local subsidies aimed at encouraging homeowners to install solar panels on their homes, even if it would increase property taxes, because of potential savings in energy and utility bills.

The surveys also discovered 71 percent would pay higher property taxes to support local subsidies aimed at replacing old furnaces, water heaters, air conditioners, light bulbs and insulation, while 69 percent would pay higher taxes to require utilities to produce 20 percent of electricity through renewable energy sources. Sixty-eight percent would approve changing local zoning rules to decrease sprawl, and 53 percent would support fees on electricity bills aimed at encouraging people to use less electricity.