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Poll says 47 percent of Tennesseans want to help stop climate change, locals weigh in

Brandon Paykamian • Feb 16, 2019 at 5:36 PM

According to a recent poll from Sandbar Solar, a solar installation company, only 47 percent of Tennesseans surveyed said they were prepared to make lifestyle changes to curb or stop the effects of climate change.

Among some of those lifestyle choices were driving less, cutting down on meat consumption, cutting down on energy use by turning off lights and powering down computers after work.

On Thursday, the Johnson City Press spoke to area residents about whether they were willing to make lifestyle changes such as these. The discussion often delved into the systemic issues surrounding climate change.

Last year, United Nations climate scientists said 100 global corporations were responsible for more than 70 percent of the effects of climate change since 1988. They also said humanity has about 12 years to substantially limit the environmental effects of climate change.

But some local residents are skeptical about climate change in general.

“I don’t think it’s caused by us,” Tom Terry, 80, said. “It’s got nothing to do with our automobile exhausts. Maybe we can slow it down, but we can’t stop it.”

Terry said he believes the rhetoric of New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is “alarmist,” and does not support her Green New Deal proposal to fund programs combating climate change by taxing the wealthiest Americans at 70 percent.

“I don’t think AOC is right when she says we got to do something because the world is going to be ending in 12 years,” he said. 

Rudy Baumann, 70, said he has been talking about doing something to stop climate change for decades. He said he has been alarmed at the increasing rate in which climate change has been occurring.

“I told my kids 20 years ago all this climate change was going to happen, even a lot faster than the scientists were predicting because the change was occurring at an increasing rate. I think a lot of that has come to pass,” he said.

Unlike Terry, Baumann said he supports Ocasio-Cortez’s proposals and thinks corporations should be held accountable. He said he supports the Green New Deal’s proposals and that something drastic needs to be done to stop climate change. 

“I would go even higher,” he said.

When it came to specific individual lifestyle changes, other residents weighed in. 

“Sure, I'd be alright with living a little differently if it meant leaving a better place for my kids and grandkids,” Brian Compton, 45, said. “I do what I can now, every little bit helps. But I should probably do more.”

Some Johnson City Press readers who believe in climate change chose to weigh in on social media. Some have already made lifestyle changes, like cutting down on meat consumption or quitting meat altogether, citing the high greenhouse emissions from cattle and livestock.

“Corporations are massive polluters, and of course, that needs to change, but enough people doing our individual part makes a difference. It’s like noise at a concert — obviously, the band and sound system is louder than anything, but the screams of the fans all together can be deafening,” Jennifer Lynn Savage, 28, said. “I’m willing to change my lifestyle to do what I can, and I have. I’ve gone vegan and try to reduce my impact as much as I can.”

David Read, 59, said he thinks the issue is more of a systemic issue rather than just a question of an individual lifestyle, but he isn’t opposed to making lifestyle changes.

“Personal recycling makes a person feel better, but can’t be the real answer,” he said.

Lessley Clerkley, 67, said he is already making other lifestyle changes he thinks are more sustainable.

“I really already have. I like to grow and garden, and I started using more organic things and stuff like that,” he said. “I recycle things more now — a whole lot.” 

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