CLIMATE CHANGE

Comprehensive survey of Southwest Florida residents on impacts of changing climate reveals surprising views

A coalition of community partners on Wednesday released results of the first comprehensive survey measuring Southwest Florida residents’ views on our changing climate.

As hurricanes, floods and wildfires have increased in number and intensity over the past decade, attitudes around the U.S. have been changing, including right here in Southwest Florida. Survey results found overwhelming support for local action and concrete solutions in response to the changing climate.

“Hurricane Irma was a wake-up call for Southwest Florida,” said Rob Moher, president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “As a result, we wanted to evaluate Southwest Floridians’ interest in working toward solutions to make our communities more resilient from intense storms and flooding.”

According to the survey findings, Hurricane Irma, along with recent red tide and toxic algae outbreaks, has the majority of Southwest Floridians deeply concerned about the changing climate. Among survey respondents:

  • 93 percent agree that local, state and federal governments should do more to protect mangroves and wetlands.
  • 83 percent agree that more extreme weather and storms threaten the well-being of our community.
  • 78 percent agree that rising sea levels threaten the well-being of our community.
  • 69 percent say red tide and blue-green algae outbreaks are being made worse by the changing climate and pollution.
  • 67 percent say Hurricane Irma caused them to be more concerned about the changing climate.
  • 63 percent say Hurricane Irma motivated them to do more to prepare for the changing climate.

The survey was funded through a partnership between the Community Foundation of Collier County, Southwest Florida Community Foundation and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

“The Southwest Florida Community Foundation is committed to cultivating a more sustainable region alongside our public, private and nonprofit partners,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. “These partners continue to ask about the impact of climate change on their work, from education and workforce to health and equity. We welcomed the opportunity to provide resources to better understand SWFL residents’ concerns about and interest in mitigating our risks in hopes of finding a path forward together.”

“We need to respond to the community’s concerns related to our changing climate,” said Eileen Connolly- Keesler, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Collier County. “We look forward to working with our partners and community to make climate connections that will protect and preserve our quality of life.”

The survey also noted residents’ strong support for a range of solutions:

  • 90 percent say the U.S. needs to produce more wind and solar energy.
  • 89 percent favor a proposal to reduce climate-related pollution by modernizing America’s electric grid.
  • 75 percent favor reducing pollution caused by our changing climate by passing laws for more efficient buildings and cars.
  • 74 percent trust scientists as a source of information about the climate.

Additionally, 78 percent of respondents believe that collectively as a society we can take steps to reduce pollution, and 67 percent say they can personally take action to reduce pollution. Urgency, according to the findings, is critical, with 76 percent saying America needs to act now and 70 percent saying that they personally need to take action now.

“If there is any state whose people should be embracing the impacts of our changing climate, it's Florida. We are the state most at risk for sea level rise than any,” said Congressman Francis Rooney, R-Fla. “This survey proves climate change is an issue important to our voters and there is more we should do to protect ourselves from future impacts.”

The survey was conducted by ecoAmerica and Lake Research Partners in September 2018 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent.

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