Yale Poll Finds Majority of Americans Think ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Other Fossil Fuel Companies Should Pay for Climate Change Damage

, director of science & policy | June 19, 2019, 9:28 am EDT
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Communities face growing costs from climate change-fueled extreme weather and rising seas, and they need to prepare for further, now unavoidable, impacts.

Who is going to pay these costs?

A striking new survey by Yale University’s Program on Climate Change Communications and supported by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) finds that most Americans (57 percent) think fossil fuel companies should pay for the damages caused by global warming.

These survey results come as fifteen U.S. jurisdictions—cities and counties in California, Colorado, Maryland, New York, and Washington as well as the state of Rhode Island—have filed lawsuits against fossil fuel companies, seeking compensation for climate damages.

U.S. Public Nuisance Lawsuits Against Fossil Fuel Companies

Not surprisingly, nearly two-thirds of Californians believe that fossil fuel companies should pay for climate damages. But so too do majorities in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, and New Mexico.

And strikingly, so do majorities in Texas and Louisiana, both dominant centers of US oil and gas extraction, processing, and refining. Texas is also home to the headquarters for ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and the US arms of BP and Royal Dutch Shell.

These results show widespread public support for the principle of “polluter pays” – that these companies should be held responsible to pay for the climate they have helped to create.

As well-documented by UCS researchers, investigative journalists and scholars, ExxonMobil and other leading fossil fuel companies have, for decades, knowingly misled the public about the climate risks of their products. Perhaps growing public awareness of fossil fuel company climate deception has contributed to the Yale survey finding that nearly 70 percent of Americans distrust fossil fuel companies.

Dig into the full survey in Yale’s interactive map, which allows you to search results by state, county and congressional district.

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  • bill_christian

    This story is foolhardy. Here is the real answer. Tax fossil fuel, at a significant rate which continues to climb predictably. We are the ones who are destroying the climate by burning the fuel. Tax it at a rate that will fairly soon be unaffordable. As this happens, WE will chose the options. As long as we can afford to burn it, we will, and we will not save our planet. Punishing the oil companies is the reaction of a spoiled brat. “Let me keep burning gas, and kick ExxonMobil twice for me for destroying the planet.Plus, ExxonMobil and the others can’t pay the cost of the damage because they obviously have absolutely nowhere near enough money. I mean, how much do you think the planet is worth? You think ExxonMobil has that much? Really?

  • Fossil fuel companies paying for environmental damage or even reducing sales beyond demand is a near-impossibility. US employees can however persuade their companies to invest in ethanol distilleries fed by sweet sorghum farms in the tropics which has year-round sun and million-hectare denuded lands. For the Philippines, the best arrangements should be joint ventures between US companies and employee co-ops (grade A to Triple A) in their thousands for quick uplands-wide (some 10 million hectares) conversion of denuded lands into sweet sorghum farms. Gross profit can exceed 50% thru endless planting and harvests. Loan repayment and high dividends are therefore assured, so billion-dollar Climate Funds should be willing to finance 75% of project costs at the outset. Employees as co-op owners will also address wealth disparities, and the projects plus upstream-downstream industries will create education-affording jobs for some 66 million Elementary-level bottom poor. Applied tropics-wide, the scheme should greatly reduce fossil fuel consumption while enabling region-wide sorghum farms to ‘inhale’ billions of tons of CO2 off the atmosphere each year.

  • David

    Yet most American continue to buy bigger and bigger SUV’s to the point most car companies have scaled back on making smaller vehicles, let alone electric cars. All the while flying every where on jets, cranking up their A/C’s all summer long, and using plastics for everything in their lives.
    The public demands and uses petroleum products. They have free will to stop using these products, buy electric cars and wean themselves off of the use of oil. But most Americans do nothing. Yet somehow it is the oil companies fault for producing a legal product that world demands.
    Another striking poll finds 99% of Americans want free heath care, free college and free retirement and want somebody else to pay for that also.