Poll shows Texans taking global warming seriously

By Todd Ackerman, Houston Chronicle Science Writer
Copyright 1998 Hoston Chronicle
September 25, 1998

As Houston readies to bring together the nation's leading experts on climate change, a new poll shows a majority of Texans believe global warming is occurring and is so serious a threat that they're willing to pay more for cleaner energy sources.

In a new Texas Poll commissioned by the Sierra Club, 58 percent of Texans said they believe global warming mainly is caused by emissions from the burning of coal and oil and 64 percent said the United States should reduce that dependence, even if it means paying more for cleaner energy sources.

And one-third of respondents said they want the U.S. government to make replacing oil and coal energy with renewable sources a priority like the Manhattan Project, the World War II project to build the atomic bomb.

"Contrary to claims that people are skeptical of global warming, this sends a message that people understand the causes, impacts and ways to respond," said Ken Kramer, director of the Sierra Club's Lone Star chapter. "The poll results should be a wake-up call in Texas and Washington."

Peggy Venable, director of the Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, said the poll shows her group has an educational chore ahead of it: "Twenty years after the Ice Age scare, the new Chicken Little warning is global warming - and we've got a big problem if these poll numbers are right."

Houstonians will get a chance to hear both sides today at conference sponsored by the Houston Forum. Forum director Marsha Tucker said it will mark the first time experts on both sides have come together to lay out and debate the issue.

The Texas Poll also found that 19 percent of Texans disagree that global warming is occurring, 16 percent disagree that coal and oil emissions are causing global warming and 15 percent disagree with the idea that global warming is so serious a threat that we should pay more for cleaner energy sources.

Besides the 33 percent of Texans who believe a solution to global warming should be made a Manhattan Project-like priority, 44 percent believe it should be a moderate priority, 10 percent a low priority and 5 percent no priority.

Sixty-three percent of respondents believe global warming contributes to extreme fluctuations in the world's weather, including El Nino events, heat waves, flooding and droughts. Seventeen percent disagree with that idea.

The Texas Poll, conducted Aug. 12-27 by the University of Texas Office of Survey Research, surveyed 1,004 adult Texans in a random telephone sample. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The Houston Forum conference on global warming is open to the public and includes a morning session at the Houston Club composed of several panels on how the issue is being studied. The conference also includes a luncheon debate at the Rice Hotel between an adviser to Vice President Al Gore and a leading skeptic.

The morning event, which starts at 7:30 a.m., costs $ 95; the 11:45 a.m. luncheon is $ 50; and the charge to attend both programs is $ 120.

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