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As state combats sea level rise, new survey shows belief in climate change up in Florida

According to FAU, belief in climate change among Florida Republicans has climbed to nearly 9 out of 10 adults
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Posted at 6:48 AM, Dec 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-09 08:10:55-05

OLDSMAR, Fla. — Dr. Colin Polsky had a hunch, and a new survey by his Center for Environmental Studies at Florida Atlantic University seems to prove it — climate change is becoming a bipartisan issue in Florida.

Polsky, the director of the center, was part of a team that polled 1,400 Floridians from across the state — a collection of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.

The geographer said the survey found more Floridians believe climate change is happening.

“The thing that’s of most interest to us is the extent to which, if at all, Florida Republicans are presenting different opinions about climate change than we see at the national level,” he said.

According to Polsky, while belief in climate change among Republicans at the national level remains much lower, his survey found that almost nine out of 10 Florida Republicans believe it is real and is happening.

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“The Democrats and the Independents register a pretty high belief in climate change as well as that it’s human-caused, and over time, we’ve seen a kind of what appears to be a trend toward more and more belief in climate change — and that it’s human-caused — among Republicans,” said Polsky.

The survey also found that Floridians are increasingly concerned about stronger hurricanes, warmer temperatures, and sea-level rise — problems scientists say climate change worsens.

RECOMMENDED: Interactive NOAA map shows how sea-level rise would impact your home

Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis gathered with other state and local leaders on the north shore of Tampa Bay in Oldsmar to announce millions of dollars in new funding to help Florida defend against the effects of sea-level rise. According to a news release, “the three-year Flooding and Sea Level Rise Resilience Plan proposes 76 projects across the state totaling over $270 million.”

During the announcement, DeSantis avoided using the phrase “climate change,” and when asked about solving the root cause of the sea-level rise, the governor said he won’t propose any “left-wing stuff.”

Still, Polsky said the new spending represents changing opinions similar to what he observed in his latest survey.

“The evidence, I think, is here over the last several years with Governor (Rick) Scott in his last couple of years as well as then — now Governor DeSantis,” Polsky said. “There’s been a kind of large and growing number of these projects . . . being supported not just by a Republican governor but by a Republican legislature.”

He said his survey shows there’s likely growing bipartisan support to do more.

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According to FAU, here are some of the survey’s notable findings:

  • Belief in any type of climate change (i.e., human-caused & natural) has reached its highest point among Floridians (92%), outpacing the national average belief in global warming by nearly 20 percentage points (Yale CCAM 2020; 72%; Answered: “Yes” to “Do you think that global warming is happening?” in 2020).
  • When broken out by political party, belief in climate change was found to be highest among Democrats (96%), and lowest amongst Republicans (88%). However, Florida Republicans still find themselves much higher than their national-level counterparts (Yale CCAM 2018; 52%; Republicans Answered: “Yes” to “Do you think that global warming is happening?” in Dec. 2018).
  • Floridians maintained the highest level of belief in human-caused climate change (60%) when compared to other national surveys, such as Pew Research Center’s (PRC 2020) “human activity contributes a great deal to climate change” (49%) or Yale CCAM 2020 “Global warming is caused mostly by human activities” (57%).
  • When Florida Republicans are viewed across age groups and asked about human-caused climate change, the youngest Republicans (ages 18-34) find themselves moving to believe more and more in human-caused climate change (65%). Older Florida Republicans (50+) are still grappling with the concept with less than half believing the same (35%).
  • Both concern about climate change's impact on future generations (74%), as well as support for teaching about the consequences of climate change in school (72%), reached all-time highs among Floridians.
  • Concerns regarding natural climate hazard events have also reached their highest points; with Floridians being either moderately or extremely concerned most about losing access to clean drinking water (78%), the health of Florida’s natural environment (74%), and concern about stronger hurricanes and storm surge (both 67%).
  • Solar energy remains the most supported of all the future energy options provided to Floridians, holding a significant advantage throughout all survey waves and reaching a high point most recently at 56% support. The closest energy source after solar was natural gas at 14%.

Additionally, if you'd like to see the map of sea-level rise projections, you can access it via NOAA's website here.