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

June 19, 2019
Peter Frumhoff
Director of Science and Policy and Chief Climate Scientist

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.

About the author

More from Peter

Peter C. Frumhoff is director of science and policy and chief climate scientist at UCS. He guides organization-wide strategies to bring robust scientific expertise to bear on strengthening public understanding and public policies; guides innovative science and policy initiatives and post-doctoral fellowships; and serves as senior liaison with the scientific community, policymakers and the media.