Public support for state-level climate policy has declined since 2008 — report
In terms of specific policies, support for increasing state gasoline taxes and developing state cap-and-trade systems both declined significantly, while support for state renewable energy standards weakened but remained reasonably popular.
Cap and trade may regain favor
By fall 2008, laws requiring a portion of electricity to come from renewable sources had been enacted by 29 states, but since then, no other states have enacted similar policies. At the same time, the NSEE report found that a large majority of respondents support a renewable energy standard, but strong support for renewable energy standards dropped from 59 percent in 2008 to 46 percent in 2013.
In 2008, there were also regional cap-and-trade programs for carbon emissions in 23 states, but that number has now declined to 10: California and the nine Northeastern states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. According to the NSEE report, support for having a state cap-and-trade system dropped from 55 percent in 2008 to 32 percent in 2013.
The authors note in the report, however, that cap-and-trade systems may become more popular in the near future as the federal government seeks to curb carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s power plants. “A few states have begun to more actively consider a return to cap-and-trade,” they write, “and emerging federal policy in regulating electricity sector emissions may provide incentives for adopting such policies.”
Barry Rabe, a public policy professor at the University of Michigan and co-author of the report, added in an email that “the drivers here include the decline of the economy and the decline in public belief in the existence of climate change.”
The report concludes that the federal government is now the driving force in American climate policy, as a lack of public support has led state governments to shy away from aggressive policies.
“The states now appear to be in a holding pattern as activity in Washington edges forward,” write the authors in the report.