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Survey shows majority of Delawareans say it is time to act on climate change

Delaware News Desk
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

With public input sessions beginning next week to create Delaware’s plan to mitigate, adapt and respond to climate change, most Delawareans believe climate change and sea level rise are happening, and a majority say the state should act now to address both issues, according to a survey commissioned by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Division of Climate, Coastal & Energy.

Residents surveyed also support a range of key strategies to reduce climate change and respond to rising sea levels. The survey, supervised by the University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication, was conducted in late 2019 by Standage Market Research with the results announced Feb. 26 by DNREC.

Public input sessions will be held to provide an opportunity for Delawareans to learn more about how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and better prepare the state for climate impacts. Public input sessions will be held in each of the three counties from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. each evening: March 3, CHEER Community Center, 20520 Sand Hill Road, Georgetown; March 4, Wilmington Public Library, 10 E. 10th St., Wilmington; and March 5, Delaware Technical Community College, Terry Campus, 100 Campus Drive, Dover.

Workshop attendees will also have a chance to provide their thoughts on choices the state can make to more effectively take action on climate change. These workshops are the start of public interaction in creating Delaware’s Climate Action Plan, which will review what’s being done in Delaware to reduce the impacts of climate change that the state already is experiencing, such as sea level rise and increased flooding in some areas, and to provide a comprehensive “road map” of steps to help mitigate those impacts on Delaware communities.

“More and more Delawareans are experiencing the impacts that climate change and sea level rise are having on our state, and this survey shows they support actions to reduce this growing threat,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “The next step for Delawareans is to take part in conversations to help Delaware decide where and how we must act.”

The key findings of the survey include that most Delawareans believe in climate change. Three of four Delawareans — 77% — are completely or mostly convinced that climate change is occurring, and 70% say the state should take immediate action to reduce its impact. Almost as many — 75 — are completely or mostly convinced that sea level rise is happening, and almost 2/3 — 63% — say immediate action should be taken to reduce its impacts.

More Delawareans have personally experienced or observed local impacts of climate change. Fifty-six percent report personal experience with the impacts of climate change, compared to 53% from a 2014 survey sponsored by DNREC. Meanwhile, a growing proportion of Delawareans, 47%, now say they have personally experienced sea level rise. That figure represents a 19-point increase from the 2014 climate survey, 28%, and a 25-point increase from a 2009 survey conducted by Responsive Management, 22%.

Delawareans are concerned about the future of climate change. A combined 56% of Delawareans think climate change will personally harm them a great deal, 21%, or a moderate amount, 35%. That grows to a combined 77% when respondents were asked if they think climate change will harm future generations a great deal, 61%, or a moderate amount, 16%.

“Future generations will judge us based upon the actions we take today,” said Garvin. “Failure to take action now increasingly locks us into a future with increased flooding, more intense heat waves and threats to our quality of life.”

Standage Market Research interviewed a representative sample of 1,126 registered Delaware voters for the study either by telephone, 601 respondents, or online, 525 respondents. Interviewees were selected through random sampling. Statistical results are weighted by demographic factors to reflect population values. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

A full report of the survey results will be released in March.

The complete summary report of the climate perceptions survey is available at de.gov/climatesurvey.