More people are coming around to the idea that climate change is really bad news. A recent Washington Post poll found that 38% of Americans now consider climate change a crisis, with another 38% calling it a major problem. And denialism is in retreat — an overwhelming majority, and even 60% of Republicans, admit that the problem is manmade.
The question is what Americans would be willing to do to tackle the problem. The same poll found that only 37% believed that major sacrifices would be necessary, with 48% saying they would be minor. As for what sort of sacrifices people are willing to make, the poll found majorities opposing even minor financial burdens on the middle class:
If Americans are unwilling to pay even $2 more per month for electricity, or see gasoline prices rise by even 10 cents a gallon, the prospect for really dramatic action on climate change seems low. Although the wealthy can and should be expected to make larger sacrifices than the middle class, it’s vanishingly unlikely that any plan serious enough to slow global warming will leave the bulk of Americans financially untouched.
But if Americans are going to be asked to engage in a war on climate change, they should understand the material and economic sacrifices that will be required of them. The best way to do this is to look at an ambitious, well-crafted climate plan like the one put forward by Washington Governor Jay Inslee.
Inslee’s plan calls for carbon-free power production by 2035. That means that coal and natural gas will be phased out, and replaced with sources like solar, wind, and nuclear. This will require extensive construction of new power plants, energy-storage facilities and electrical grids to dispatch power from where it’s produced to where it’s needed. Buildings will also have to be retrofitted to use electricity rather than gas for heating and cooking. And a switch from gasoline-powered cars to electric vehicles will require the construction of a nationwide network of charging stations.