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The Oregon Values and Beliefs Center surveyed state residents' perceptions on the Earth's changing climate.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Black smoke clouds from the many wildfires burning in Oregon and Washington partially obscured the sun in September 2020. A recent poll measured Oregonians' thoughts on climate change, and the role it has played in wildfires. We're doomed.

That's the pessimistic point of view espoused by the two-thirds of Oregonians who believe there's a slight chance, or no chance at all, that humans can solve climate change in time to stave off the worst of its effects, according to a new poll.

The data comes from the nonprofit Oregon Values and Beliefs Center, which surveyed 1,154 adult state residents in mid-August to map Oregonians' perception of climate change. Survey respondents were selected to match state demographics. The margin of error ranges from 1.7% to 2.9% per question.

A majority of residents think there's only a small chance (45%) — or no hope at all (21%) — of stopping climate change, the results show, or about 66% total.

Interestingly, a similar slice of the state says human-caused climate change is fact (64%), compared to just 8% who believe that carbon emissions' role in global climate is fiction. Democrats (85%) far outpace Republicans (27%) in describing climate change as reality, a trend also seen comparing college graduates (77%) to those with a high school diploma or less (57%).

"People are more pessimistic about forest fires and the climate crisis than about solving communicable diseases like COVID (33%), voting rights and secure elections (40%), racial discrimination (58%), or population growth (62%)," pollsters said in a briefing memo.

Here are a few more highlights from the survey:

• Despite the dramatic photos of wildfires and flooding that inundate social media, a majority of Oregonians say climate change has had no (22%) or little (40%) impact on their life. That said, the impact has been significant (27%) or dramatic (11%) for the remainder.

• Oregonians aren't eager to pay more at the pump, either. A third (35%) wouldn't support any sort of fossil fuel tax, and another 13% wouldn't want to pay more than a quarter per gallon in tax. A skimpy majority (51%) would pay as much as 50 cents. Only 15% would OK a tax of $4 or more, if that's what it takes to halt climate change.

• While research shows that Americans generate, on average, 15 to 25 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually — compared to a global average of four tons per year — most Oregonians think their own lifestyle is below the mean. Some 42% of respondents said their emissions are extremely low, 40% said their emissions are low, while just 3% admitted to average levels of pollution.

What about the solutions?

Oregonians largely favor government interventions that promote tree planting (81%) and incentivize renewable energy sources (80%), pollsters wrote. A healthy majority also approve of strengthening regulations on industrial emissions (73%), as well as implementing tougher fuel efficiency standards (69%).

"Nearly half of Oregonians say they aren't sure about geo-engineering strategies, like reflective artificial clouds (47%)," pollsters say. "Strategies like this will need more media attention before people have strong opinions."

More than a penny for your thoughts

The Oregon Values and Beliefs Center is committed to the highest level of public opinion research.

To obtain that, the nonprofit is building the largest online research panel of Oregonians in history to ensure that all voices are represented in discussions of public policy in a valid and statistically reliable way.

Selected panelists earn points for their participation, which can be redeemed for cash or donated to a charity. To learn more, visit oregonvbc.org/about-the-panel and join the panel.


Zane Sparling
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