By DON HUNTER
Anchorage Daily News
October 04, 2006
Could be good for tourism, though.
Those are some of the findings from a lengthy survey of more than 1,000 residents across the state, conducted by pollster and public opinion researcher Jean Craciun between May 9 and June 29 and financed by a grant from the National Science Foundation. The poll, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, was commissioned by an Oregon research group that received the grant to study how people perceive and respond to risks.
According to survey results released this week, concern about climate change in Alaska spans geographic and political divides.
Majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents agree it's happening, although Republicans are more likely to think warming is caused by natural processes and is less of an immediate threat, the survey suggests.
Democrats tend to blame human-produced greenhouse gases and believe climate change will produce more serious problems sooner. Independents are more likely to subscribe to that side of the debate, too.
Rural Alaskans - defined as those who live in roadless regions in the northern and western parts of the state - are more likely to consider global warming an immediate and serious threat to themselves and their families, the results indicate.
More than 71 percent of them rated the changing climate a somewhat or very serious problem, compared to about 52 percent of the respondents in Fairbanks and surrounding areas, and about 48 percent in Anchorage.
At the same time, however, the survey shows more rural residents think global warming overall will be somewhat good or very good for the state - 41 percent to about 22 percent of urban dwellers.
Statewide, 78 percent of those surveyed said they think summertime sea ice in the Arctic Ocean will disappear in the next 50 years, an even gloomier prediction than offered by climate scientists.
Some 73 percent expect to see towns and villages flood in that time, almost 70 percent expect worse storms and fewer salmon, and 65 percent think polar bears will become extinct.
On the bright side, 73 percent think temperatures will be more comfortable, and 60 percent expect tourism to grow because of warmer weather.
Craciun said her research team talked to 1,016 adults, sometimes setting appointments or calling back to complete the 130-question survey. Usually it took around 25 minutes; some respondents took more time.
"The interesting thing to me was that people hung in there for 25 minutes," she said.
Craciun said she wasn't surprised to see rural Alaskans offer more specific and intense concerns than residents in urban areas.
"It's kind of logical. They're seeing more of it (climate change) day to day as they interact with the environment."
Another whom they trusted to tell the truth about global warming, respondents rank "family and friends" the highest at 86 percent, followed by scientists at 82 percent, environmental organizations at 63 percent, the news media at 48 percent, state politicians at 29 percent and corporations at 23 percent.
Anthony Leiserowitz, the scientist who commissioned the study through Oregon nonprofit Decision Research, said the results track studies in other parts of the country and tend to dispel the sense that Alaskans are in "a state of denial" about climate change.
Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com
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