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Survey: 71 percent of Southwest Florida residents concerned about climate change

By Staff | Feb 20, 2019

A majority of Southwest Florida residents believe that climate change will personally affect their health and homes, and they want the government to do something about it.

Those are the results of the first-ever Southwest Florida Climate Metrics Survey revealed Wednesday morning by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, EcoAmerica, and the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

In September, they conducted a survey of 401 residents in Southwest Florida to gauge the public’s current attitudes about climate change, as part of a national survey of 800 people.

“Sometimes you hear anecdotal stories that people are doubting it’s happening or some people think it’s real or not real. This is the first thing that sort of objectively quantifies what people’s beliefs are around climate change,” said Rob Moher, CEO of the Conservancy.

Jennifer Roberts, director of EcoAmerica’s Path to Positive Communities program, said the main takeaway from the survey is that 7 in 10 Southwest Florida residents are concerned about climate change.

“(Hurricane) Irma was really a wake-up call for this community,” she said, noting that 67 percent of people locally said they feel affected by extreme weather and flooding, compared to 49 percent nationally.

“The major areas where Southwest Florida residents are more aware and concerned is being affected by damage and harm from extreme weather,” said Roberts.

Ninety-three percent of those surveyed said that the government should do more to protect our mangroves and wetlands, and 69 percent of Southwest Florida residents recognize the link between climate change, pollution, and toxic algae outbreaks.

There is a marked difference in the public’s awareness of what their local government is doing to battle climate change, and what they wish their government would do.

“Nineteen percent say their city is taking action to prepare for impacts, and three-quarters wish their city would prepare,” Roberts said.

The survey also revealed strong environmental values.

Ninety-one percent said they feel a moral responsibility to keep the climate healthy, and 92 percent said clean water is a “critical right for all people.”

There was also strong support for expanding clean energy and eco-friendly public transportation systems, and 82 percent said they would support charging corporations a fee for the pollution they create.

The majority of respondents reported that they get their information regarding climate change from the news media, and their most trusted sources for information are scientists, health professionals and environmental organizations.

Over half have switched to eco-friendly appliances in their homes and are discussing climate change with their friends and family.

“The survey shows us that people are ready for action, they are looking to leaders to help guide them, and they are willing to make personal changes,” said Roberts.