Skip to main content
Home homeNews home
Story

Sustainable Solutions Lab Report Focuses on Views on Climate Change Across Racial Groups in Greater Boston

Office of Communications | Fri Oct 2, 2020

Respondents across races view climate change as a serious threat demanding major policy solutions; racial disparities around climate preparedness reported

In a report released today, the Sustainable Solutions Lab (SSL) at UMass Boston shared public opinion data that includes a large sampling of people of color in the Boston area. By capturing a full range of views on climate change across racial groups, that survey data establish a baseline set of inclusive perspectives from which climate stakeholders can measure change over time. The data demonstrate that while nearly all Greater Boston residents believe in the threat of climate change and support major policy solutions, residents of color are less prepared for climate shocks.

The report, Views That Matter: Race and Opinions on Climate Change of Boston Area Residents, was authored by Assistant Professor of Environment and Public Health Lorena Estrada-Martínez, Director of the Institute for Asian American Studies and Professor of Political Science Paul Watanabe, and doctoral student Katsyris Rivera-Kientz.

“As often happens with survey research, climate stakeholders often assume delivered data as being representative of the views of the ‘general public,’ when it in fact largely represents the views of the white population,” said Estrada-Martínez. “By sampling robustly to ensure statistically significant inclusion of respondents across racial groups, this survey addresses research bias that can lead to disparities when perspectives from communities of color are overlooked.”

The new SSL data shows that across all racial groups, Greater Boston residents overwhelmingly believe that climate change is real and a serious threat – but also can be overcome. Nearly 90 percent of respondents believe that climate change is happening in Massachusetts and will soon cause coastal flooding, rising sea levels, heat waves, and extreme storms. All racial groups identify global warming as a “high priority” issue. By a margin of about 2 to 1, respondents of all groups believe that climate change “can be stopped.”

Responses diverge and racial disparities become acute in questions related to planning and preparing for a severe climate-induced weather event. Disparities are reported between residents of color and whites in the availability of home insurance; adequate food, medicines, and other necessities; and evacuation plans. When asked whether they have home insurance, 74 percent of white residents compared with only 57 percent of Blacks and 54 percent of Latinos/as and Asian Americans reply “yes.” Fewer than half of Asian Americans and Blacks report that they would have sufficient essential supplies in the face of a severe weather event.

“This data shows that for people in Boston, there’s little question about the urgency to act on climate. Pursuing bold solutions to confront climate threats will engender strong support from a multi-racial coalition,” Watanabe said. “The concern emerges around the disparities in preparedness. We need to work together to ensure everyone, in every neighborhood, across all racial groups, has the resources they need to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing climate.”

Respondents overwhelmingly agree (nearly 90 percent) that combating climate change requires “major” policy changes at the federal and state levels, and that state and local governments should take the lead in making necessary changes. When asked about their level of support for a series of specific policy measures – including improved transportation, flooding buffers, and enhanced state funding for community projects – residents were overwhelmingly in favor of all options. Whites represented the largest share of residents who say they “strongly oppose” the options, but still supported all policies with strong majorities.

“Increasing racial, social, and economic justice means listening to the voices of people of color at every step of the policy process,” said David Moy, interim director of the Hyams Foundation. “This report is an important milestone in the climate story of Greater Boston. We encourage similar efforts across a wide range of issues so that our region moves forward solutions to our toughest challenges in a way that is truly representative of all people.”

The survey was conducted by the MassINC Polling Group between October 10 and November 8, 2019. It was conducted by telephone (landline and cellphone) and online and was available in English and Spanish. The survey area included the cities of Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Everett, Lynn, Quincy, Revere, Somerville, and Winthrop. The Greater Boston survey contains data from an oversampling of residents in the area with the explicit goal of having a survey with at least 200 respondents from each of four racial/ethnic groups: Asian Americans, Blacks/African Americans, Latino/as, and whites.

The report was released at the UMass Boston Sustainable Solutions Lab’s quarterly Climate Adaptation Forum. The report is available at www.umb.edu/ssl/research. It was made possible through funding from the Hyams Foundation and the Barr Foundation.