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Global warming and the Paris climate change conference

More than 140 world leaders are descending on Paris for a long-planned climate conference this week
Paris facing security challenge from terrorists and climate protesters 02:35

By Anthony Salvanto, Jennifer De Pinto, Sarah Dutton and Fred Backus

Reducing Global Warming

As President Obama and other world leaders prepare to meet in Paris for a global climate conference, Americans generally approve of the main goal of the summit: to come up with a treaty to reduce greenhouse emissions and slow climate change.

Sixty-six percent of Americans think the U.S. should join an international treaty that requires the signatories to reduce carbon emissions in an effort to fight global warming. Nearly nine in 10 Democrats (86 percent) and two-thirds of independents support such a move, while a slight majority of Republicans (52 percent) oppose it.

A majority of Americans -- 53 percent -- think global warming is caused mostly by human activity, while fewer -- 31 percent -- think global warming is caused mostly by natural patterns in the earth's environment. Just 9 percent don't think global warming exists at all. Belief that global warming is caused by human activity has risen 11 points since 2011.

Pres. Obama pays tribute to victims at Bataclan concert hall in Paris 00:35

While majorities of Democrats (72 percent) and independents (52 percent) believe global warming is caused by human activity, this is true of less than a third of Republicans (32 percent).

One out of every two Americans thinks global warming is an environmental problem that is having a serious impact now -- up from 38 percent in 2010. Another 25 percent of Americans thinks the impact of global warming won't happen until sometime in the future, while 19 percent don't think global will have a serious impact.

In 2007 even more Americans thought global warming was having a serious impact now, but that percentage had dropped considerably by 2010.

Sixty-eight percent of Democrats and 50 percent of independents think global warming is having a serious impact now. Just 29 percent of Republicans agree.

On specific measures, 63 percent of Americans favor limiting the carbon emissions from U.S. power plants, including 44 percent who strongly favor such a move.

Americans are more divided on limiting drilling for oil and national gas on public lands, as well as putting limits on logging and mining: 49 percent favor while 45 percent oppose. Most Americans oppose increasing taxes on either gasoline (60 percent) or electricity (79 percent) in order to reduce global warming.

But 55 percent Americans would be willing to pay more for electricity if it were generated by renewable sources like solar or wind energy. Most Democrats and independents would be willing, while most Republicans (58 percent) would not.

On a personal level, 45 percent of Americans are personally worried about climate change at least a fair amount, while 56 percent are either only a little worried (32 percent) or not at all worried (24 percent).

Protecting the Environment

A majority of Americans -- 54 percent -- now think protecting the environment is more important than stimulating the economy; just 34 percent think stimulating the economy is more important. While these numbers are similar to those found in April 2007, in December 2009 - amidst the depth of the recent economic recession - nearly two-thirds of Americans thought stimulating the economy was more important.

Looking ahead, many Americans remain pessimistic that they will leave a better environment for future generations. Fifty-six percent of Americans think the environment will be in worse shape for future generations than it is now.

This poll was conducted by telephone November 18-22, 2015 among a random sample of 1,030 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News and the New York Times by SSRS of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones.

The poll employed a random digit dial methodology. For the landline sample, a respondent was randomly selected from all adults in the household. For the cell sample, interviews were conducted with the person who answered the phone.

Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish using live interviewers.

The data have been weighted to reflect U.S. Census figures on demographic variables.

The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus four percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher and is available by request. The margin of error includes the effects of standard weighting procedures which enlarge sampling error slightly.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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