Public Perceptions of Climate Change, Fall 2015

Categories: Survey

Climate cover 102315_Page_1

For the past three years, we have been asking Maryland residents questions about their understanding of the effects of climate change and their preferences for the state’s climate and energy policies that fall under the umbrella of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act (GGRA). Creating jobs remains at the top of Marylanders’ priority list for the state, but residents strongly support a large range of the state’s energy and climate policies, including renewing the GGRA in 2016. Moreover, they are drawing connections between climate change and harm to the state’s cultural, economic, and ecological heritage: the Chesapeake Bay.

George Mason University partnered with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in fielding the survey in 2015. This report is one of three released from the data; other reports highlight attitudes, behaviors and policy preferences on energy, and public health and climate change.


Key findings include:

 1. Jobs, education, roads, and pollution are top priorities for the state.

  • Marylanders’ top priorities for the General Assembly and Governor are reducing water pollution (high/very high, 76%), fixing and building roads (77%), improving state K-12 and higher education (79%), and creating jobs (87%).
  • Almost half of Marylanders say climate change should be a high or very high issue priority (46%), a higher percentage than those who advocate shrinking government (40%).

2. Majorities of residents consistently support climate and energy policies.

  • In 2015, as in the two previous years of the survey, residents are most likely to say they support expanding energy efficiency rebates and supporting the production and consumption of local agricultural products (somewhat/strongly support, 84%).
  • Three-quarters (75%) of Marylanders say they support a mandate for energy suppliers to meet the current state target for renewable energy, almost the same figure as the percentage of Marylanders who support expanding incentives for renewable generation (77%).
  • The only polled climate and energy policy that consistently receives less than 50% support is incentives for wood fuel heating systems (somewhat/strongly support, 35%).

3. Residents support renewal of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act (GGRA).

  • A majority say the state should renew the GGRA, either keeping the current pollution reduction goals (22%), or renewing it and strengthening those goals (42%).
  • Majorities back renewing the GGRA in each of the state’s four regions (Western, 58%; Central, 64%; Southern, 64%; Eastern, 61%).

4. State and local governments should protect communities from climate change.

  • More than two-thirds of residents say state and local governments should take action to protect communities from climate change (71%), a percentage which has not varied much since 2014 (73%).

MAP FOR CLIMATE5. Marylanders say climate change is happening and that humans are – at least in part – at cause.

  • Most state residents say climate change is occurring (72%). A sizeable percentage are extremely or very sure (48%).
  • Almost half of Marylanders (45%) say climate change is either caused entirely or mostly by human activities, a number that has increased from 37% in the past year. Another third of residents (33%) say climate change is caused equally by natural and human causes.

6. Residents are more likely to underestimate the social consensus than the scientific consensus on climate.

  • This year, 46% of Marylanders said that scientific consensus on climate change is 80% or greater, an increase of 21 percentage points over 2014.
  • As of 2015, only 29% of residents underestimate the scientific consensus in Maryland, but between 43% and 47% underestimate the social consensus for their region, state, and the nation.

7. Hotter weather and more storms are seen as likely due to climate change.

  • More than two-thirds of Marylanders (70%) call out hotter weather as one of the effects of climate change they expect to see in the next 10-20 years in their communities. They also point to more severe storms (59%) and colder weather (52%). Very few say there are no likely effects from climate change (13%).

8. Marylanders say harm to the Bay and its aquatic life are among the most likely effects from climate change.

  • At the top of the list of community resources that Marylanders expect to suffer from climate change in the next several years are aspects of the state’s coastal heritage: aquatic life, such as crabs and fish (62%); the Chesapeake Bay (58%); coastlines (54%); and the fishing/seafood industry (53%). Wildlife (57%), people’s health (57%), agriculture (53%), and public water supplies (53%) round out the list.

The mail survey was fielded from April 11 to June 24 with a response rate of 27%. The unweighted sample margin of error is +/- 2.5 percentage points at the 95% confidence interval for the state and less than +/- 5.7 percentage points for each of four regions of the state.


Download the full report.

Download climate change and sea level rise certainty maps.

Download issue priority maps.

Download policy support maps.

Download the press release.

Download a PowerPoint of report figures.