Climate change warrior wields political clout

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Two hot-off-the-press polls suggest fighting climate change has attained coast-to-coast approval. A survey by the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows Americans rank climate change as the nation’s most pressing environmental problem – a dramatic increase from its sixth-place ranking just three years ago.

The timing of the MIT poll dovetailed with a Field Poll survey in California giving Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger a 16-point lead over his Democratic opponent – the widest margin in two decades for a gubernatorial front runner just days before an election. The previous poll in late September showed Schwarzenegger with a 10-point lead in late September over former real-estate developer and now State Treasurer Phil Angelides.

Last February, they were tied at 39 per cent. Schwarzenegger has steadily regained public support by working closely with Democrats on a variety of issues, and distanced himself from the unpopular Bush Administration by backing a pioneering state measure aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Failing an extraordinary shift in momentum, Angelides stands to suffer defeat Tuesday in an election ripe for Democratic victories elsewhere – and in a state known for its blue pedigree.

The poll said Schwarzenegger’s comeback is so strong he’s even running neck-and-neck with Angelides in the San Francisco Bay area, one of the most politically liberal regions in the US. In the MIT survey, nearly three-quarters of respondents said government should do more to deal with global warming.

“While terrorism and the war in Iraq are the main issues of national concern, there’s been a remarkable increase in the American public’s recognition of global warming and their willingness to do something about it,” said political science Professor Stephen Ansolabehere.

Imagine where Arnold’s numbers would be if he dropped his fleet of hummers.

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