Analysis

Californians, economics and environmental protection

View of downtown San Diego and central rail yards. (Photo: welcomia, via Shutterstock)

Something that isn’t too surprising for legislators or Gov. Brown as California continues to be on the forefront of environmental policies: A major survey shows strong majority (62 percent) of Californians believe air pollution is a problem in their part of California.

Two-thirds (66 percent) believe the effects of global warming have already begun, while 58 percent believe it is a serious threat to California’s economy and quality of life.

When adults were asked if reducing global warming would affect employment,  50 percent said it would create more jobs and 22 percent said it would result in fewer jobs.

Protecting the environment and preventing climate change appear to be issues that are intrinsically tied to the economy and class.

Moderate Democrats are concerned too much environmental regulation cuts jobs and increases the cost of living for middle and working class Californians. Progressive Democrats believe going green creates new jobs and puts California at the forefront of cleaning up the environment.

In a recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, people were asked about myriad environmental issues, from the importance of protecting the environment, combating global warming, costs associated with preserving the environment, and the effects of pollution in lower-income areas.

When adults were asked if reducing global warming would affect employment,  50 percent said it would create more jobs, 22 percent said it would result in fewer jobs, 19 percent said it wouldn’t affect the number of jobs, and 9 percent don’t know.

In liberal Los Angeles County (19 percent) and the Bay Area (16 percent), less than 2 out of 10 adults believe there will be fewer jobs.

“People are willing to do the right thing for the environment if they know its creating jobs for economy and longer term savings,” said Bob Keefe, the executive director of E2, an environmental-business group

“I recently put solar on my house in San Diego, and it’s a hell of lot cheaper than it used to be.  It’s a big upfront investment, but it will pay off in five-to-six years and it’s creating jobs for the workers that put it up on my roof.”

The most significant difference is around party affiliation, 66 percent of Democrats, 50 percent of independents, and just 21 percent of Republicans saying that reducing global warming will cause more jobs.

There are some interesting regional differences on whether reducing global warming will cause fewer jobs.

In liberal Los Angeles County (19 percent) and the Bay Area (16 percent), less than 2 out of 10 adults believe there will be fewer jobs. But it rises to 22 percent in the Central Valley, 26 percent in the Inland Empire, and 29 percent in Orange and San Diego Counties — two coastal counties but also an area with strong pro-business views and large swaths of Republicans.

“I guess I believe in principle (that) I will pay a little bit extra to help the environment.” –Adriana Raby.

“Part of that is those regions have a greater concentration of Republicans, whereas Los Angeles and Bay Area you have a lot more Democrats” said Luna Lopes, Research Associate at PPIC.  “So what you are seeing is the partisan makeup of the different regions manifest themselves there.”

When enacting policies to reduce global warming, 54 percent said there would be an increase in gasoline prices, 18 percent believe there would be a decrease, and 19 percent said it wouldn’t affect prices.  In the more conservative inland areas of the state, 60 percent of adults said there will be an increase in gasoline prices, while it’s 51 percent along the coastal counties.

Adults were somewhat divided on paying more for electricity generated by renewable sources to help reduce global warming.  Half (51 percent) said they would be willing, 45 percent said they would not be willing and 4 percent don’t know.

“I guess I believe in principle (that) I will pay a little bit extra to help the environment,” said Adriana Raby, an independent from Sherman Oaks.  “It’s important to help the environment because we live on earth and we are killing it, and it’s for your well-being and generations after you.”

There are significant regional differences.

A majority of adults in the Bay Area (58 percent) and Orange/San Diego Counties (56 percent) are willing to pay more, followed by 49 percent in Los Angeles, 45 percent in the Central Valley, and just 39 percent in the Inland Empire.

There also are significant differences between racial groups about when asked whether air pollution is a more serious threat in lower-income areas.

About half of whites (50 percent), Latinos (50 percent), and African-Americans (53 percent) are willing to pay more for electricity generated by renewable sources, while it jumps to 62 percent of Asians.

When asked if air pollution is a more serious threat in lower-income areas, 55 percent said yes, and when queried about the importance of spending cap-and-trade revenues on improving environmental conditions in lower-income communities, 54 percent said it was very important, while 27 percent said somewhat important.

There also are significant differences between racial groups about when asked whether air pollution is a more serious threat in lower-income areas.

While 76 percent of Latinos and 74 percent of Africans Americans said yes, it drops to 49 percent of Asians and 42 percent of whites.  Among those making below $40,000 annually, 66 percent said yes, compared with about 47 percent among higher incomes.

“Folks who are not in lower income communities are coming forward and they ask how they can support us, and then there are also folks who are not open to the conversation,” said Carolina Martinez, Associate Director of Policy with the Environmental Heath Coalition.

“Even with mainstream environmental groups we have to advocate for our issues.  It’s articulating that environmental justice needs to be at the forefront because that is where the biggest source of pollution is located,” she said.

 


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