We Surveyed the Members; What Did They Say?

By the WVHC Climate Change Committee

The Climate Change Committee conducted a historic survey of Highlands Conservancy members on climate change in March and the first part of April. This was the first time the Conservancy has surveyed its members on an issue. The Climate Change Committee is grateful for those members who took the time to give us their opinion on climate change. All responses will be kept strictly confidential.

Altogether there were 327 responses with the majority coming through the online service SurveyMonkey. Having this many responses give us a good understanding on what Conservancy members think about climate change. 

In general, members recognize that human activity is having an impact on the climate, and they are very concerned about climate change. They believe that climate change will very likely have an impact on the Highlands and other parts of the globe. They support regulatory initiatives, market-based initiatives, international treaties and tough fuel standards to address climate change. They have very high trust in the Conservancy. They support the Board developing and publishing a policy statement on climate change as well as increased material in the Voice, on our website, and developing science-based material. They want the Conservancy to be involved in Red Spruce planting, as well as advocating for legislation to reduce greenhouse gasses and advocating for government policies that promote resiliency and adaptation.

Below are some specific results of the survey. Most survey responders thought that climate change was either predominately caused by human activity (63%), or enhanced by human activity (34%). Less than 2% of the responses said that climate change was just a natural phenomenon. 

Most responders were greatly concerned (79%) or concerned a fair amount (17%) about climate change. Less than 5% were only a little or not at all concerned about climate change.

Large majorities of the members thought that the impacts of climate change that were listed in the questionnaire were very likely to occur. Harm to wildlife and their habitats was very likely to occur according to 85% of responders; 82% thought that it is very likely that cold water fisheries would be degraded; 84% thought that it is very likely that storms would be more severe; 84% thought it was very likely that climate change would increase droughts; 83% thought that damage to forest and plant life was very likely to occur. Finally, 90% of responders thought that it is very likely that sea levels will rise as a result of climate change.

A majority of members supported a number of actions to address climate change. Eighty percent of responders thought that regulating power plants would make a big difference. Market-based solutions such as putting a price on carbon or adopting a cap-and-trade initiative were viewed as making a big difference by 59%. International treaties were viewed as making a big difference by 65% of the respondents. Tough fuel standards were viewed by 71% of respondents as making a big difference. There was less agreement on whether more people driving hybrids, eating less red meat, or people or nonprofits planting trees would make a big difference, although a plurality of respondents thought that these actions would make a small difference. 

Ninety-two percent of respondents either strongly agreed (55%) or agreed (37%) that the Conservancy is trusted to provide full and accurate information on climate change.

When asked what the Conservancy should be doing to address climate change, 73% would like to see more articles in the Voice. More content on the website was supported by 69% of the respondents; more science-based material was supported by 73% of respondents; and 78% wanted the Conservancy to develop and publish a policy statement on climate change. 

There was overwhelming support for the Conservancy being involved in activities to address climate change. Ninety-six percent supported planting Red Spruce and other restoration activities. Eighty-five percent supported providing educational material. Ninety-two percent supported advocating for legislation to reduce greenhouse gasses; and 89% supported advocating for policies for resiliency and adaptation.

Clearly, Conservancy members believe that climate change is real, that it is partly the result of human activity, and that the Conservancy should be engaged in finding solutions to protect the Highlands from its most serious impacts.