A study carried out by the Foundation for Clean Air Progress(FCAP)has found that while 58% and 64% of US voters rated US legislation such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act respectively as important, less than a third of the 662 voters surveyed rated the Kyoto and Montreal Protocols as very important (31% and 28%, respectively).

The survey also found that 32% and 35% of Americans had not heard of the Kyoto Protocol and the Montreal Protocol respectively.

The survey polled respondents on the importance of various US and international environmental initiatives, and what those efforts have accomplished.

Respondents were asked about the US Clean Air Act; the US Clean Water Act; the Endangered Species Act; the Superfund (a fund which finances the clean up of contaminated land); the Kyoto Protocol (an international agreement to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases) and the Montreal Protocol (an international agreement aimed at protecting the ozone layer from the effects of ozone).

Respondents felt the Kyoto Protocol is the least important of the environmental initiatives they were questioned on. More than one in ten (11%) rated Kyoto at 3 or lower on a scale of one to 10. The Endangered Species Act was rated as unimportant by 10% of respondents, while 9% dismissed the Montreal Protocol.

Almost two-thirds (64%) rated the Clean Water Act at 8 or higher on a scale from one to 10. A similar portion of respondents (58%) rated the Clean Air Act as important, and 50% thought both the Superfund and the Endangered Species Act very significant. However, only 31% and 28% rated the Kyoto Protocol and the Montreal Protocol as important.

Ironically, Americans appear to have got it right when it comes to acknowledging the achievements of the environmental initiatives. A majority (57%) of those surveyed believe the US has made progress on air pollution over the last 30 years. In fact, more people think progress has been made on air pollution than on any of the other environmental issues mentioned.

According to the US EPA, all major pollutants have been reduced by one-third in the US in the last three decades and more than 77 million tons of pollutants have been removed from the air per year.

However, the survey’s respondents believe the two international agreements had not achieved very much: 28% and 25% said the Kyoto and Montreal Protocols have accomplished little or nothing at all.

The survey also found that uneducated respondents were more likely to believe the Kyoto Protocol has accomplished a great deal (43% of the uneducated believe this, as opposed to 31% of the educated). In contrast, 31% of those with higher levels of education believe the Clean Air Act has accomplished a great deal, as opposed to 19% of the less educated.

As might be expected, the FCAP sees the results of its survey as a positive indication of the US public’s awareness of improvements in air pollution. “The Clean Air Act is a cornerstone of the environmental progress that we’ve seen in the US during this century,” said FCAP president William Fay. “As we enter the new millennium, it’s important to recognise that this critical piece of legislation has had a significant and measurable impact on our air quality, and will continue to do so well into the next century.”

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