What Americans will (and won't) give up to fight climate change

When it comes to combating climate change, a lot of people who talk the talk don’t actually walk the walk, particularly if it means traveling on foot instead of by car.

While Americans are willing to make convenient changes to reduce the carbon emissions that scientists say are driving climate change and creating unpredictable weather patterns, they resist when faced with inconvenience, according to the results of a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

About nine in 10 Americans said they often or always turn off lights when they’re not needed, according to the poll. And more than half said they set their thermostat to 68 degrees or lower in the winter to reduce power consumption by their heaters.

But only 45 percent of respondents said they often or always set the air conditioner at 76 degrees or higher in the summer to do the same. Close to a third of Americans said they hardly ever or never set their thermostat that high.

Less than a fifth of Americans said they often or always use public transportation, carpool, bike or walk instead of driving, according to the poll. More than half said they hardly ever do so, and some 44 percent said they rarely eat vegetarian meals.

Whether survey participants believed in climate change plays a significant role in their decisions, the poll found, and previous research shows money is an influence, too. Even people who don’t acknowledge climate change will regularly turn off unnecessary lights and turn down the heat or air conditioning to lower their bills.

But even those who believe climate change is real and their actions can make a difference are only slightly more likely to make greener choices, the AP reported.

In some rural areas, people can’t just hop on a bus or train like city dwellers. The poll found that urban residents were twice as likely to frequently use non-driving options as people in suburban and rural areas.

SAN RAFAEL, CALIFORNIA -- Traffic backs up at the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge toll plaza along Interstate 80 on July 25, 2019. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Iowa resident Jon Dahlstrom told the AP that he’ll dim lights and adjust his thermostat, but there are limits to what he alone can accomplish.

“I’m out in the middle of Iowa, so there is no public transportation,” he said.