Americans Back Tough Limits on Building in Fire and Flood Zones

The New York Times features the natural disasters installment of Climate Insights 2020, a public opinion survey conducted by researchers at Stanford, RFF, and the survey firm ReconMR.

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Sept. 4, 2020

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The New York Times

"Americans support far more aggressive government regulation to fight the effects of climate change than elected officials have been willing to pursue so far, new research shows, including outright bans on building in flood- or fire-prone areas — a level of restrictiveness almost unheard-of in the United States.

The findings suggest that the public’s appetite for government action to prepare for global warming is shifting as natural disasters worsen.

Eighty-four percent of respondents, including 73 percent of Republicans, supported mandatory building codes in risky areas, and 57 percent supported making it illegal to build in those areas. More than half of respondents favored paying people to move, including three-quarters of Democrats.

But while the findings show bipartisan support, more stringent restrictions have been generally opposed by local officials, who cite the cost they would impose on the economy. “There’s a disconnect between public preference and public policy,” said Jon A. Krosnick, a professor of communication, political science and psychology at Stanford University who led the project.


There was even greater support for construction requirements in fire-prone areas, with 87 percent of respondents favoring them, including 79 percent of Republicans. “It’s clear that people want this,” said Ray Kopp, who worked on the project as vice president for research and policy engagement at Resources for the Future."

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