By Barbara Kessler

Three in four Virginians believe that global warming has been occurred over the past four decades, according to an extensive survey of state opinions, released today by University of Virginia researchers.

A smaller percentage of the populace (39 percent) said that human activity “such as burning fossil fuels” is causing the phenomenon; 33 percent felt global warming was caused by a combination of human factors and natural trends; 20 percent attributed it to “natural patterns” and 8 percent reported they were “not sure” of the causes.

The survey of 660 Virginians, conducted by UV’s Miller Center of Public Affairs and released this week, was devised to better probe residents’ viewpoints on global warming, in light of the fact that states have “taken an unexpectedly central role” in forming climate change policy.

It found that most residents see global warming as a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” issue (89 percent total) and they believe that immediate government action is needed.

Those surveyed cited various reasons they had arrived at these conclusions, such as personal experience with warmer temperatures; awareness of melting glaciers and polar ice or changing weather patterns with stronger storms or because of media coverage and literature on the issue.

Asked about solutions, the respondents said they supported an array of possible answers, with renewable power at the top of the list. (Virginia is among the U.S. states that have set specific time targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and for using more renewable power, having set a non-binding goal to obtain 12 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2022.)

Virginians told surveyors that they would support the following policy options, listed here in order of descending popularity:

1. Creation of Renewable Portfolio Standard (setting goals for clean energy usage) — 55%
2. Increased Support for Clean Coal Technology — 51%
3. Increase Fuel Efficiency Standards for Automobiles — 49%
4. Energy Efficiency Requirements for Residential and
Commercial Buildings — 49%
5. Tax Reductions for Hybrid Vehicle Purchase — 47%
6. Increased Use of Nuclear Power — 30%
7. Require Vehicles to Reduce Green House Gas Emissions — 30%
8. Increased Support for Ethanol Development — 27%
9. Restrictions on Suburban Development — 23%
10. Establishment of Cap and Trade — 16%
11. Increased Fossil Fuel Taxes — 13%
12. Increased Gasoline Taxes — 10%

The survey is part of a larger national poll of some 2,000 Americans, expected to be released in December.

Virginia ranks as the 15th from the top among states for greenhouse gas emissions (based on 2005 figures) and releases emissions that exceed all those generated by Egypt, Greece and Pakistan, according to the report.

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