Who should take the lead in protecting the environment? America readers gave us a definitive answer.

(iStock photo)

Sixty-two percent of the readers who responded to this week’s survey told America that the federal government should take the lead in protecting the environment. When pressed for their reasoning, they cited the federal government’s capacity for oversight and enforcement. Kathleen Wiedeman of Massachusetts wrote, “Although environmental protection must be personal and local...federal government needs to take the lead due to the interdependent nature of environmental impact of actions across regions.” Many readers also noted that the federal government is uniquely able to join international efforts to combat climate change. “The environment is a global issue,” said Bede Cisco of Indianapolis. “The federal government is positioned to build coalitions with other nations to address global issues.”

A smaller subset of our reader sample (20 percent) told America that individual citizens should take the lead in protecting the environment. From Anchorage, Alaska, John Goll explained that “citizens have the best chance” to make an impact because they can choose “how they live, what they buy and for whom they vote.” Stephen Hymel of Tuscon, Ariz., gave a similar response: “If a significant number of individuals lead and take action, local, state and federal governments will take action, too.” Mr. Hymel noted that climate change is already influencing decision-making in the private sector. “Many businesses are taking action now,” he wrote. “It’s the right thing to do” and it eventually increases revenue.

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The remaining readers responded that business leaders (8 percent) and local and state government (10 percent) should lead efforts to care for the environment. But regardless of who readers thought should take the lead, a striking majority called for collaboration in battling climate change. Mr. Goll, for instance, noted that in protecting the environment “all of the above [federal government, business leaders, individual citizens, and local and state government] must be involved.”

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