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U.S. Voters Strongly Support Laws To Clean Up Cargo Ships

Container ships in the sea have a lot of black smoke

Summary of Results: Poll from Nexus Polling, Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, and George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication

By wide margins, Americans want the government to reduce pollution from cargo ships.  According to a new poll from Climate Nexus, Yale, and George Mason University, 8 in 10 registered voters want to see Congress pass laws that will reduce cargo shipping pollution and make the sector cleaner.

Large majorities also support specific proposals to achieve these goals, including:

  • Gradually requiring all cargo ships to run on cleaner fuels and ultimately produce no carbon pollution by 2040 (83%).
  • Funding ports to build the infrastructure needed to distribute clean fuels and let ships run on electricity while in port (81%).
  • Requiring ships to produce no carbon or air pollution while docked in U.S. ports by 2030  (77%).
  • Providing funds to accelerate the deployment of clean fuels and ships powered by renewable energy (77%).
  • Lowering speed limits for ships to improve efficiency and reduce threats to ocean wildlife (70%).

The poll also found that nearly half (49%) of respondents think no single group can clean up the cargo shipping industry alone. Shipping companies, ports, retailers, and the government all have important roles to play.

Cargo ships burn the world’s dirtiest fuel, and climate pollution from the maritime shipping sector could more than double by 2050, raising the industry’s 3% share of global climate pollution. Pollution produced by cargo ships also profoundly affects the health of people worldwide, contributing to an estimated 6 million cases of childhood asthma and hundreds of thousands of premature deaths around the world each year. Poll respondents say shipping has ill effects on wildlife (59%), air quality (45%), and ocean cleanliness (62%). 

The survey of 1,760 registered voters (18+) in the United States was conducted May 17-19, 2023, and has a margin of error of +/- 2.6%.