What scares Americans the most?

Keith Zukowski

Americans are scared - and when it comes to our environment, more so than ever before.

Each year, the Chapman University Survey of American Fears takes stock of what terrifies Americans most, and for the first time in the survey’s four-year history, worries about the environment have cracked the top ten.

In fact, four of Americans’ top 10 fears now have to do with our planet.

Pollution of oceans, rivers and lakes; pollution of drinking water; global warming and climate change; and air pollution have all flown up the rankings to claim spots 3, 4, 8, and 10, respectively, on the fear scale.

This should come as little surprise. As the Trump administration continues to bulldoze some of our most critical public health and environmental protections, Americans – along with our water, air and soil – stand to suffer the consequences.

Here’s a look at why those fears aren’t unfounded.

Toxic water concerns are real

It has been more than 1,000 days since the people of Flint, Michigan, had clean water to drink. In other cities across the country, water is delivered to homes through aging pipes – including up to 10 million homes served by lead pipes.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has made it easier for polluters to taint our natural water sources. Shortly after taking office, Trump and his congressional allies repealed a law that restricted coal companies from dumping mining waste into streams and waterways.

The Trump administration has made it easier for polluters to taint our natural water sources.

The horror show continues: The administration has also proposed a budget for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that would eliminate or severely diminish several critical programs that keep our water clean.

The Nonpoint Source Monitoring Program, which helps identify and mitigate runoff pollution from roads, parking lots and fertilizers: gone. The Leaking Underground Storage Tanks grants, which protect water and soil from tanks that leak chemicals: given the ax.

The EPA Superfund and Brownfield grants, which support the cleanup of toxic and radioactive waste and the redevelopment of polluted sites would be cleaved 30 percent. Another 30 percent would be sliced from water pollution control grants and state public water system supervision.

We fear the changing climate

The administration and the Scott Pruitt-led EPA have done all they can to question settled climate change science.

From gagging EPA scientists and censoring climate change information on government websites, to pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord and working to repeal the Clean Power Plan, America has been dragged backward in the race against a rapidly changing planet.

We now stand with Syria as the only two nations that are not part of the Paris climate accord.

Most Americans get [climate change] and we’re worried not knowing just how bad it’ll get.

At the same time, we’re entering a world where superstorms such as Hurricanes Irma and Maria are becoming much stronger, where wildfires shred through drought-stricken communities, and where delicate ecosystems feel the pressure of warmer water and hotter air.

Scientists are nearly unanimous in agreeing that climate change is real. Most Americans get that, and we’re worried not knowing just how bad it’ll get.

We’re scared because we care

The overwhelming majority of us support cleaner air, water and land, and we want a government that helps us achieve each. What’s more, most Americans recognize the growing threat of climate change and the need for immediate action.

Frighteningly, little the Trump administration has done so far suggests our nation’s leaders feel the same way

As the Chapman University survey confirmed, that’s enough to keep you up at night.

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