Poll: Large Majority Of Americans Understand Global Warming Made Several Major Extreme Weather Events Worse

A new survey finds that by 2-to-1 Americans accurately understand global warming makes a number of extreme weather events worse.

This Yale survey matches a recent Brookings poll that found Americans’ understanding of climate change was increasing with more extreme weather and warmer temperatures. It also matches Yale’s earlier November survey finding.

This finding matches the results of September polling by ecoAmerica:

  • 69% of Americans Know “Weather Conditions (Such as Heat Waves and Droughts) Are Made Worse by Climate Change
  • 57% of Americans understand “If we don’t do something about climate change now, we can end up having our farmland turned to desert.”

And the public’s understanding certainly matches the science (see “Has Global Warming Caused A Quantum Jump In Extreme Weather?” and links below).

You can find details on the poll at Yale’s website (and the NY Times, which was the source of the above figure). Here are some highlights:

  • 82 percent of Americans report that they personally experienced one or more types of extreme weather or a natural disaster in the past year;
  • 35 percent of all Americans report that they were personally harmed either a great deal or a moderate amount by one or more of these extreme weather events in the past year;
  • Over the past several years, Americans say the weather in the U.S. has been getting worse – rather than better – by a margin of over 2 to 1 (52% vs. 22%);
  • A large majority of Americans believe that global warming made several high profile extreme weather events worse….
  • Only 36 percent of Americans have a disaster emergency plan that all members of their family know about or an emergency supply kit in their home (37%).

This is all the more remarkable because the media and key opinion-makers have all but stopped talking about climate change, so it would be hard for people to be convinced by those two sources.

On the other hand, the American public can’t miss the extreme weather because it is everywhere now and increasingly off the charts — see NOAA Chief: U.S. Record of a Dozen Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters in One Year Is “a Harbinger of Things to Come.” That was especially true last month (see “March Came In Like A Lamb, Went Out Like A Globally Warmed Lion On Steroids Who Smashed 15,000 Heat Records“).

The December 2011 Brookings poll found  all of this extreme weather was  measurably boosting  the number of people who understand the planet is warming:

Even though extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and intensity, the close relationship between weather and beliefs about global warming can potentially make public opinion fickle over the short term — particularly since the continental United States comprises only a tiny fraction of the world and thus its weather is even more erratic than the Earth’s climate as a whole.

But that may be less of a concern if meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters is correct that “The climate has shifted to a new state capable of delivering rare & unprecedented weather events.”

And while there has not only been too little media coverage but also too little connecting of the dots in recent years, media coverage is showing signs of improving.

The NYT reports:

“Most people in the country are looking at everything that’s happened; it just seems to be one disaster after another after another,” said Anthony A. Leiserowitz of Yale University, one of the researchers who commissioned the new poll. “People are starting to connect the dots.”

… Past survey work had suggested, he said, that people tended to see the climate change problem as “distant in time and space — that this is an issue about polar bears or maybe Bangladesh, but not my community, not the United States, not my friends and family.”

People are starting to connect the dots. Now if only policymakers can start doing the same.

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16 Responses to Poll: Large Majority Of Americans Understand Global Warming Made Several Major Extreme Weather Events Worse

  1. Peter says:

    Its good to see Americans are realizing that things are ‘not the same as 30 years ago’ with the climate. When they begin to vote for public officials who advocate change of policy is another matter.

    How many disasters must we endure before then? We will likely have passed 450ppm.

  2. Carl says:

    The NYT article also had this:

    “But a tiny, vocal minority of researchers contests that view, and has seemed in the last few years to be winning the battle of public opinion despite slim scientific evidence for their position.”

    Even the media is finally getting it.

  3. Solar Jim says:

    Connecting the dots:

    1) By economically defining underground resources of matter as “resources of energy,” thereby endorsing rapid oxidation of geologically sequestered organic carbon matter into carbonic acid gas via mining and ignition, humans contaminate an evolved climate abruptly into prehistoric conditions.

    2) Researcher spends a year of calculations by hand to show in 1896 that doubling of carbonic acid gas will raise global temperatures by several degrees Celsius. During 20th Century mechanized warfare and armament sales are prevailing initiatives.

    3) After global release of a trillion tons of carbonic acid gas (as well as other “greenhouse gases”) primarily from “fuels of war,” in the second decade of 21st Century American citizens notice something strange with “the weather.” Meanwhile, planet ice caps, containing some seven million cubic miles of frozen water, start to head their way. They speak of “adaptation” for decades on end as corrupted globalized financial system and all ecological systems begin to falter.

  4. M Tucker says:

    “People are starting to connect the dots. Now if only policymakers can start doing the same.”

    Yeah, if only policymakers were people too.

  5. Ashfyn says:

    It’s already too late. That’s the irony.

  6. Sasparilla says:

    Very nice article Joe. We can certainly count on the media to be there for disasters and unfortunately there will be more of them in the future and it’ll just keep getting harder and harder not to point to climate change as a huge factor affecting things.

    The good (consistent) news is that the majority of the general public gets it and they’d like stuff done on climate change. They just don’t want action done bad enough to make things happen in Washington, yet. The important thing is that this base of knowledge in the public is there and isn’t going away.

    IMHO, at some point in the future (years of course but hopefully by the end of the decade) the public (in relation with all the scientists and sites like this shouting about the reality of our situation) will see and understand the actual crisis level of the situation (via 1st hand effects), overwhelm the forces in DC preventing climate action and make things happen (by then on a “what’s needed” basis instead of what is insufficient).

    Having this level of understanding in the general public is very reassuring to me that we will get there (to true action just before its too late).

  7. sal esman says:

    HEy the dust bowl isn’t on this list.

  8. Raul M. says:

    It’s ok, don’t give up hope that they will learn there is more to life than their own comfort.

  9. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Shows that the public are no longer getting all their information from the Lame Stream Media.

    Al Jazera is being demonized because they do actual reporting and the Lame stream is becoming increasingly irrelevant, .

  10. CW says:

    Didn’t read them all but both the Yale and Brookings reports didn’t explicitly say man-made or anthropogenic warming.

    A lot of folks think warming is occurring, but don’t think humans have a role in that warming. Is that the case here? It makes a huge difference obviously.

  11. Ken Barrows says:

    It’s interesting that March, according to NCDC, was only about 16th warmest globally (land and ocean) and the coolest in a few years. Record warm years in 2005 and 2010 cannot convince where a very warm couple of weeks can.

  12. Tom King says:

    Somewhere in these statistics are the inaudible voices of people deciding they will never again trust mainstream media or conservative politicians. New values are being created and shared with friends. New styles of morality, new commitments to pursue truth at almost any price. Read the stats and then listen for the hushed conversations. At a million campfires, at a million kitchen tables, the words are being exchanged.

  13. Everything is a lesson.

    Lessons not learned, will be repeated.

  14. BillD says:

    One problem is understanding that warming of 1 or 2oC can be a lot. It seems that climate scientists have probably underestimated how quickly extreme weather would be a factor in climate change.

    In teaching about climate change in a university nonscience major’s class two points seemed to get the students’ attention. One was showing that by 2050, the climate of northern Indiana, Ohio, Michigan would be like that of current Alabama and Mississippi. There is actually a web site showing Illinois “moving south.” That is more impressive than saying that the climate will warm by a couple of degrees.

    The students were also impressed by a video showing burning methane from ice-covered Arctic ponds.

    I am going to write to my Tea Pary farmer House rep who is on the ag committee. He must be seeing that climate change is affecting farming. I wonder how he would feel about his Indiana farm moving to Alabama.

  15. Raul M. says:

    A religious take on global warming?
    Earth climate moving to the type during prehistory when the Earth wasn’t ready for God to create humans yet.
    Post history? Is there science reasons why mankind was in a prehistory mode and will the same type of climate suddenly arraigning true humanity to a post history mode?

  16. Raul M. says:

    Did Congress think that the gulf of pollution had recovered as they put the paper copies of the thing into the recycling bin and after some time it was fresh paper for them again?