Attitudes in Texas are warming up to climate change, study reveals

HOUSTON, Texas — The Lone Star State appears to be warming up to the idea of climate change. Researchers from the University of Houston say most Texans currently believe climate change is real and are even willing to pay more for low-carbon products; mirroring the general opinion shared by the nation.

It seems that energy use is bigger in Texas, too. The study finds the state produces and consumes the most energy in the United States. In a state that relies so heavily on the oil and gas industry, public opinions on climate change and reducing emissions has historically favored the status quo. In the past, this has distinguished Texans from the rest of the U.S. on most issues regarding energy production and the environment. However, the new study reveals Texan attitudes are shifting. They are now more likely believe climate change is happening and humans are responsible for it.

“People are aware of climate change and believe it is real,” declares Ramanan Krishnamoorti, chief energy officer at UH, in a university release. “That is true even in Texas, where people have been less likely to say they believe in climate change and, especially, change caused by human activities.”

The survey by the university’s Hobby School of Public Affairs and UH Energy polled 1,500 about their climate views in October 2020. A thousand of the respondents live all around the 50 states and the District of Columbia, while the remaining 500 adults reside in Texas. The results find 81 percent of Texans believe climate change is happening and 60 percent worry about its impact on the planet.

The amount of people who believe climate change is driven by human activities however, is a slightly different story. Krishnamoorti and his team find only 58 percent of the poll believe individual consumer choices are responsible for climate change. Climate experts on the other hand believe individual consumption behavior is one of the biggest contributors to global warming.

The majority of Texans listed government, the fossil fuel industry, and the transportation sector as responsible for climate change.

Younger, educated people are leading the shift

The survey finds younger people with more education are more likely to agree that individual behavior is causing climate change. Among those who are more informed about climate change issues, three in four Americans say individual choices are at least partly to blame for the crisis.

Interestingly, this demographic has higher levels of awareness about the topic of climate change overall. They also tend to know more about mitigation strategies as well.

In contrast, older adults are less willing to pay more for carbon mitigation strategies like carbon-neutral fuel. Overwhelmingly however, Americans are ready to pay more for cleaner gas.

“We also found that more than 93% are willing to pay more for carbon-neutral energy, and 75% said they would pay between $1 and $5 more per gallon,” says Gail Buttorff, co-director of the Survey Research Institute at the Hobby School.

The survey also gauged public opinion on the carbon management roles of oil and gas companies. About 66 percent of all survey respondents agree that oil and gas companies should adopt carbon management technologies. Another 56 percent think the government should incentivize companies to adopt this practice. Over half of Texan respondents (53%) agree.

Policy change is coming on climate change

The report, Carbon Management: Changing Attitudes and an Opportunity for Action, helps characterize the national attitude on climate change. Such information is timely, as many energy companies have promised to reduce their carbon footprints. Additionally, the incoming Biden Administration may develop more stringent environmental regulations. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to rejoin the Paris Climate agreement when his administration takes office in 2021.

“With so much potential for change ahead, we wanted to assess public attitudes about climate change and support for specific policies aimed at curbing emissions,” says the Hobby School’s Pablo Pinto. “We found people are worried about climate change and want it to be addressed, but many people, especially older residents, don’t understand the strategies being considered.”