Putting Americans First

by Jun 1, 2017

As I write this, President Trump is preparing to tell us all whether or not America will stay in the Paris Climate Agreement. All the pundits anticipate he’ll announce that we’re exiting the agreement. It’s seen as a campaign promise – as part of his “America First” platform, they say.
Well, actually, staying in the agreement would be aligned with putting Americans first. Here’s why:
  • According to our 2016 Energy Pulse poll, 64% of Americans believe climate change is real and caused by human activity. We’ve been asking this question for over a decade now, and in the last three years, we’ve sort of topped out at 64%. But what’s changed is the number of absolute disbelievers. Only 13% of us now believe it’s not real and not caused by humans. That’s down from 18% a few years ago. (The remainder of us are on the fence … we sense that something is happening, but we’re not sure if it’s caused by man.)
  • 51% of us now report feeling anxious about climate change. That’s up from 45% in 2014.

Based on anecdotal feedback we get from our qualitative research work, the more weird weather events we have, the more people sense something’s happening – and the more they feel anxious about it. Interestingly, NOAA just forecasted that we’ll have a more active hurricane season this year than in years past, with 11-17 named storms expected. If one or two make landfall – regardless of whether or not climate change played a role – many people will connect the dots and anxiety about climate will continue going up.

Beyond feeling anxious, Americans have baseline expectations related to the environment. Ninety percent of us think the average person should be taking concrete steps to reduce his/her impact on the environment, and 74% of us consider a company’s environmental reputation as we’re making product purchasing decisions.

Closer to home for Mr. Trump:

Forty-one percent of us believe our government should pay more attention to environmental issues. Only 12% of us think the environment shouldn’t stand in the way of business development.

I get it that folks who own coal mines (or work at them) don’t want government regulations and requirements to impact their livelihoods. But as has been widely written about, economics are playing against coal more than regulations – natural gas is both cleaner and cheaper.

I also get it that government policies related to climate can cost companies money. Reducing a company’s impact on the environment typically requires an investment. But most end customers – especially Millennials – don’t want to buy from companies who are known polluters. So, again, economics makes the case for positive environmental actions.

Beyond economics, there are three things I know about Americans – both as someone who’s spent nearly 50 years on the planet as an American and as someone who’s spent the bulk of a career understanding how people are thinking about the environment:

  • Regardless of how we vote, we all want clean air and clean water.
  • We believe in doing what’s right.
  • We all want our kids and grandkids to have a great future.

All of which adds up to a great case for sticking with our Paris commitment. How can we put America first if we don’t put Americans – and their values and desires – first?

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About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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