New Poll: Americans Believe Global Warming is Real and Threatens Their Families
Posted October 24, 2012
A new national survey reveals that a whopping 70 percent of Americans believe global warming is very real, a substantial surge over the past two and a half years, while those viewing it as a direct threat to themselves or their families are the highest levels ever, according to survey results released last week.
Meanwhile, the number of U.S. residents denying the existence of climate change declined almost by half to a relatively few 12 percent since January 2010.
While acknowledging further analysis is necessary to determine precisely why Americans increasingly say they believe in global warming, researchers at the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, the organizations that conducted the survey, justifiably speculated a likely factor is extreme weather with a record number of heat waves, droughts, wildfires and violent storms.
It appears Americans once again are connecting the dots between severe weather events and climate change. If you have doubts about the link, consider Oklahoma’s massive dust storm last week.
Ironically, the survey by the Yale Project and George Mason University Center Climate Change Communication groups comes just days after the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported September was the 331st straight month with above-average global temperatures and tied with September 2005 for the warmest on record worldwide.
Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale University says U.S. beliefs about climate change declined from 2008 to 2010, but have now bounced almost all the way back. The survey shows Americans’ belief increased 13 percentage points from 57 percent in January 2010 to 70 percent last month. Meanwhile, the number who claim global warming is fiction plummeted from 20 percent to 12 percent today.
Not only that, but those who believe global warming is happening or more certain of that than are those who think it is not happening. A strong majority (57%) of those who believe climate changes is real are “extremely sure” (27%) or “very sure” (30%) it is. In contrast, those who think global warming is not happening are not so sure of themselves anymore – only 15% are “extremely sure” they are right.
The Yale-George Mason analysis also said that for the first time since 2008, more than half of Americans (54%) believe global warming is caused mostly by human activities, up eight points just since March. Those who contend it is caused mostly by natural changes in the environment declined from 37percent to 30 percent – the lowest level since the survey began.
Last week's report dovetails with Yale-George Mason findings earlier this year that Americans think global warming should be a priority of the president and Congress (72%) and more should be done by corporations and industry (70%) and citizens, themselves (67%).
Those findings reinforced other surveys showing people strongly back initiatives to limit carbon pollution, such as the August survey by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California that found 71 percent of all adults support California’s groundbreaking AB 32 and its mandate of rolling back the state's greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
As California moves forward with implementation of AB 32 and the launch of the nation’s first economy wide carbon market, it’s clear Americans, and particularly Californians, want action to stop what they increasingly believe is a serious threat to their families and the world around them – climate change.
Last week’s other major findings include:
- Over half of Americans (58%) say they are “somewhat” or “very worried” about global warming -- the highest level since November 2008.
- For the first time since 2008, they’re more likely to believe that most scientists agree that global warming is occurring than believe there’s widespread disagreement on the subject – 44 percent versus 36 percent, respectively – up nine points since March.
- Three out of four Americans (76%) say they trust climate scientists as a source of information about global warming, making them the most trusted source asked about in the survey. The researchers also found that scientists (who do not specialize in climate) are also trusted by a majority of Americans (67%), as are TV weather reporters (60%).
If all these statistics make your head spin, one thing should be clear – Americans believe global warming is a legitimate threat and policymakers need to take note of that and act. Good thing California has a head start.
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