What Americans think about wildfires and climate change

Jamie BallardData Journalist
September 15, 2020, 3:16 PM UTC

Dozens of wildfires are burning up and down the West Coast, and governors in California, Oregon and Washington point to climate change as a major reason why this year’s fire season has been especially destructive.

“The data is self-evident, the experience that we have in the state of California just underscoring the reality of the ravages of climate change,” California governor Gavin Newsom said. “Mother Nature is physics, biology and chemistry. She bats last and she bats one thousand. That’s the reality we’re facing, the smash mouth reality — this perfect storm. The debate is over around climate change.”

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It seems many Americans agree. In a survey of more than 32,000 US adults, 42 percent believe that climate change is “partially responsible” for the spread of wildfires on the West Coast. About one in five (21%) say that climate change is “fully responsible” for these events and a similar number (23%) believe that climate change is “not at all responsible” for the fires.

Democrats (32%) are more likely than Independents (18%) and Republicans (11%) to say that climate change is fully responsible for the wildfires. About half (51%) of Republicans don’t believe that climate change is at all part of the reason for the fires.  

Among those who live in the Western US, 42 percent say that climate change is partially responsible for the fires. About one-quarter say climate change is fully responsible, and 24 percent say climate change is not at all responsible for the wildfires.  

Methodology: YouGov asked 32,635 US adults: “Which of the following comes closest to your view about the spread of the wildfires on the west coast?” The survey was carried out online September 11 – 14, 2020. Data were weighted on age, education, gender, race, and Census region to be nationally representative of adults in the United States.   

Image: Getty