Poll: Most US Republican voters back action on climate change

US President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the climate agreement at the White House in Washington, December 12, 2015.Reuters

A majority of US Republicans who had heard of the international climate deal in Paris said they support working with other countries to curb global warming and were willing to take steps to do so, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll on Tuesday.

The desire for action is notable for an issue that has barely made a ripple on the campaign trail among 2016 Republican presidential candidates. Few of the Republican White House contenders have said much at all about the United Nations summit in Paris this month, though Democratic candidates, such as Hillary Clinton, have welcomed it.

More than half, or 58 per cent, of Republicans surveyed said they approved of US efforts to work with other nations to limit global warming, the poll showed. Forty per cent said they would support a presidential candidate who did so.

Sixty-eight per cent, meanwhile, said they either somewhat or strongly agree that they are willing to take individual steps to help the environment, such as cutting down on air-conditioning or buying a more efficient car.

Republicans surveyed were split on whether they would support a candidate who believes climate change is primarily man-made, with 30 percent saying they would vote for such a candidate and 27 percent saying they would not.

Republicans were less enthusiastic about fighting climate change than Democrats, but more willing to address it than the party's presidential candidates. Ninety-one per cent of Democrats approve of the United States taking action.

In the run-up to the November 2016 election, Republican contenders have widely criticised President Barack Obama and leading Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton for listing climate change as a critical national security issue, saying the assertion understated the threat of terrorism.

Declaring that no challenge poses a greater threat to current and future generations than a changing climate, Obama launched in August his final Clean Power Plan to cut carbon emissions from power plants and boost development of solar and wind power.

The Obama administration held out the plan as an example of US leadership ahead of the UN talks in Paris, in which nearly 200 countries agreed to take non-binding actions to reduce emissions linked to climate change.

But candidates have cast doubt on science that attributes the warming of the climate to carbon emissions, with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump saying the world's temperature "goes up and it goes down".

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, and other lawmakers in his party say the Obama plan is part of the administration's "war on coal" that will damage the economy of states that produce and burn the fuel and force workers from their jobs.

Robert Tomlinson, a 58-year-old Republican from Idaho, said he thinks climate change is partly caused by humans but noted that the United States cannot tackle the problem by itself.

"I believe we need to be as responsible as we can, but at the same time, I don't think we need to be making unreasonable expectations," he said.