Two-thirds of Americans want US to sign global climate pact – poll

World leaders and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates (7thL) attend a meeting to launch the 'Mission Innovation: Accelerating the Clean Energy Revolution' at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) in Le Bourget, near Paris, France, November 30, 2015. © Ian Langsdon
Sixty-three percent of Americans say the United States should participate in an international agreement seeking to combat the effects of man-made climate change, according to a poll released as a global climate summit begins in Paris.

Released to coincide with the beginning of meetings in Paris for the two-week 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), a New York Times/CBS survey found that the majority of respondents supported policies that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Thirty-one percent of respondents disapproved of such regulations.

Though the majority of respondents who identified as Republicans said they would not want to join a legally binding international agreement, most Republicans surveyed did say they support domestic policies that work to cut carbon emissions.

The poll found that Americans are conflicted as to whether the US should restrict oil and gas drilling on public lands, as 49 percent favored prohibitions while 45 percent opposed them.

In a separate poll released on Monday by the Washington Post and ABC News, 63 percent of Americans said climate change was a serious problem. That number is down from June, when Washington Post-ABC News pollsters found that 69 percent of respondents agreed.

The Post-ABC survey said 47 percent of Americans believe the federal government should do more to combat climate change, while one-third of respondents said the government is doing the “right amount” to address global warming. One in five people said the government should do less, a rise from one in ten people in 2008.

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More Americans (51 percent) said there is "a lot of disagreement among scientists” over the existence of climate change than those (43 percent) who said scientists agree. At least 84 percent of scientists agree man-made climate change is occurring, according to a January 2015 Pew Research survey.

Eighty-one percent of Democrats told the Post/ABC survey that they believe climate change is serious, while only 43 percent of Republicans agreed.

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The biggest challenge for the participants of the UN conference in France will be reaching a first-ever universal climate pact, approved by and applicable to all 195 nations involved. Since 1992, the so-called Conference of the Parties has taken place every year, with top negotiators trying to come up with effective action plans to tackle climate change. In 2011, negotiators agreed that a deal had to be struck by the end of 2015.

The US, a top greenhouse-gas emitter, has been criticized as the major hurdle blocking a global agreement. The US has seen increased scrutiny in recent decades, as it only signed, but never ratified, the Kyoto Protocol – the only legally binding international pact regarding emissions. US President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet with Chinese and Indian leaders on Monday in Paris, according to reports.