• Climate change is starting to have a noticeable effect on Americans, with more than six in 10 saying it is currently affecting their local community.
  • Some of these issues are caused by warming oceans, resulting in more severe flooding and storms.
  • Global warming and the related catastrophes could have major economic implications for coastal and non-coastal communities.

More than six-in-ten Americans (63%) say climate change is currently affecting their local community either a great deal or some, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted April 29-May 5, 2020 – similar to the share who said this in surveys from 2019 and 2018.

Partisan divide in views of climate change's impact on own community.
Percentage of Americans who say they are affected by climate change.
Image: Pew Research

As is the case on many climate-related issues, perceptions of whether and how much climate change is affecting local communities are closely tied with political party affiliation. More than eight-in-ten Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party (83%) say climate change is affecting their local community at least some, compared with 37% of Republicans and Republican leaners.

But politics is not the only factor related to these perceptions. Americans who live close to a coastline are more likely than those who live farther away to say climate change is affecting their local community. Seven-in-ten Americans who live within 25 miles of a coastline say climate change is affecting their local community at least some, versus 57% of those who live 300 miles or more from a coast.

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to live within 25 miles of a coastline (37% vs. 25%), but in both party coalitions, those who live closer to a coast are more likely to perceive greater impacts from climate change in their local area.

Those living near coasts who are affected by climate change.
Those living near coasts who are affected by climate change.
Image: Pew Research

Among Republicans and GOP leaners, 45% of those who live within 25 miles of a coastline say climate change is affecting their local community at least some, compared with 31% of Republicans who live 300 miles or more from a coastline.

Large majorities of Democrats – both near and far from a coast – say climate change is affecting their local community at least some. But Democrats who live within 25 miles of a coastline are more likely than Democrats who live 300 miles or more inland to say climate change is impacting their community a great deal (39% vs. 29%).

When asked what specific effects of climate change they see in their local communities, Americans who live near a coast are far more likely than those who live inland to point to rising sea levels that erode beaches and shorelines as a major impact in their community. About three-quarters (73%) of those who live near a coastline and see at least some effect of climate change point to rising sea levels, compared with 45% of those who live farthest away. That perspective is shared among both Democrats (75%) and Republicans (73%) living near a coast.

A 2019 United Nations report warned that climate change is warming oceans, resulting in more severe flooding and storms. Rising seas could have major economic implications for coastal communities.

Distance to the coastline.
Distance Americans live from the coast.
Image: Pew Research

Americans living close to a coast also stand out when it comes to their views toward increased oil and gas drilling. Those living within 25 miles of a coastline are less likely than those living 300 miles or more away to favor expanding drilling for oil and natural gas (32% vs. 44%). This difference is especially pronounced among Republicans: Those living near the coast are 13 percentage points less likely than those living further away to favor expanding offshore oil and gas drilling (55% vs. 68%). Regardless of where they live, large shares of Democrats oppose more offshore oil and gas drilling.