Mortgage market meltdown has nothing on planetary meltdown.

With most global warming conspiracy theories debunked, with climate-isn't-changing quacks sent packing and with a more informed media reporting what the bulk of the world's scientific community has long known, planetary meltdown is really hitting home.

Americans consider global warming an urgent threat, according to a new survey, "American Opinions on Global Warming" conducted by Yale University's Project on Climate Change, Gallup and the ClearVision Institute.

That's not surprising, given the effects of global warming are already impacting the world's most climate-change vulnerable regions where much of the world's populations lives.

The World According To Al Gore in the Oscar-winning documentary and book, "An Inconvenient Truth," doesn't include much of Manhattan, the Florida Peninsula, the San Francisco Bay Area or other coastal and low-lying regions where, within 50 years, homes could be under 20 feet of water as oceans swell from glacier-melting temperatures.

But Al Gore didn't invent global warming.

One in 10 people worldwide, including one in eight city-dwellers, live less than 10 meters (33 feet) above sea-level and near the coast and are at risk for flooding and stronger storms exacerbated by climate change, according to the International Institute for Environment and Development.

Its "The Rising Tide: Assessing The Risks Of Climate Change And Human Settlements In Low Elevation Coastal Zones", says popular low-lying-development digs up a double whammy.

Human masses flock to zones at higher risk of suffering from ever more inclement weather, rising sea-levels and flooding. Compared to regions with smaller, thinner populations, the higher population at greater density puts more people in harms way, making survival, emergency and rescue operations more difficult should a natural disaster hit.

And it's not just the upward motion of the ocean.

The United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) report "Global Deserts Outlook", said earlier this year, even as global warming is beginning to cause higher sea levels to nip at coastlines, hotter weather is fueling "desertification," which pushes the desert frontier out, closer to population centers typically situated on the previously cooler desert fringes.

In addition to the distant potential for apocalyptic disaster, the more down-to-earth reality of higher costs to insure, build and heat homes and otherwise live with the effects of global warming is what really hits home for the American populace.

It's as if the planet is squeezing populations between a rocky shore and a hard, hot place.

Earlier this year, Philip J. Trounstine, director of the Survey & Policy Research Institute at San Jose (CA) State University said, "My suspicion is that those who are highly educated are aware of this issue and there is some caution about purchasing in low-lying coastal areas. You are thinking in 50-year increments, which means leaving the property to children and projections in the rise in sea levels in 50 to 100 years."

But the Yale-Gallup-ClearVision survey indicates global warming concerns have been imbued with a time lapse photography-like sense of urgency as more and more Americans call for action now rather than in the next generation.

According to the survey:

  • Sixty-two percent of respondents believe that life on earth will continue without major disruptions only if society takes immediate and drastic action to reduce global warming.
  • Sixty-eight percent of Americans support a new international treaty requiring the United States to cut its emissions of carbon dioxide 90 percent by the year 2050. The United States has been dragging its heels on signing the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty that would require the United States to cut its emissions 7 percent by the year 2012.

    Unfortunately, that's not surprising from a nation that spends a fortune turning corn into nutritionally harmful high fructose corn syrup instead of bio fuel.

  • However, Americans don't think they should be taxed for heel dragging and oppose carbon taxes as a way to address global warming -- either in the form of gasoline taxes (67 percent against) or electricity taxes (71 percent against).
  • Americans are, however, ready to bite the bullet and pay for change even if those it those elected, car makers, and utility companies would prefer other approaches. A whopping 85 percent of those polled support requiring automakers to increase the fuel efficiency of all new consumer motor vehicles to 35 miles per gallon, even if it meant a new car would cost up to $500 more; and 82 percent support requiring electric utilities to produce at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources, even if it cost the average household an extra $100 a year.
  • Move over Iraq war and wake up presidential candidates. What is surprising is that 40 percent of respondents say a presidential candidate's position on global warming will be either extremely important (16 percent) or very important (24 percent) when casting their ballots.

    That's provided, of course, the candidates actually detail their global warming platforms.

  • Finally, 50 percent of those polled say they are personally worried about global warming and 15 percent said they are worried "a great deal."

If only worry could cool the planet.

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