From the New York Times (WASHINGTON) — Americans support far more aggressive government regulation to fight the effects of climate change than elected officials have been willing to pursue so far, new research shows, including outright bans on building in flood- or fire-prone areas — a level of restrictiveness almost unheard-of in the United States.
The findings suggest that the public’s appetite for government action to prepare for global warming is shifting as natural disasters worsen.
Eighty-four percent of respondents, including 73 percent of Republicans, supported mandatory building codes in risky areas, and 57 percent supported making it illegal to build in those areas. More than half of respondents favored paying people to move, including three-quarters of Democrats.
But while the findings show bipartisan support, more stringent restrictions have been generally opposed by local officials, who cite the cost they would impose on the economy. “There’s a disconnect between public preference and public policy,” said Jon A. Krosnick, a professor of communication, political science and psychology at Stanford University who led the project.
As global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, decisions about where and how to build have become increasingly important. If local governments continue to allow homes to go up in places most exposed to climate change, such as coastlines, floodplains or fire-prone wilderness, experts say, it will make generations of current and future residents more vulnerable to worsening hurricanes, floods, wildfires and other disasters.
Yet those long-term concerns have typically been outweighed by the demand for new homes, and the jobs and tax revenue that come with them. In many coastal states, the most flood-prone areas have seen the highest rates of home construction since 2010, a study last year found. And in California and elsewhere, officials continue to approve development in areas hit by fires.