Poll: Growing Majority Of Americans Understand The Earth Is Warming And Humans Are The Cause

George Mason University and Yale’s Project on Climate Change Communication have released more polling results. Here are the highlights (full PDF here):

  • Americans’ belief in the reality of global warming has increased by 13 percentage points over the past two and a half years, from 57 percent in January 2010 to 70 percent in September 2012. At the same time, the number of Americans who say global warming is not happening has declined nearly by half, from 20 percent in January 2010 to only 12 percent today.
  • For the first time since 2008, more than half of Americans (54%) believe global warming is caused mostly by human activities, an increase of 8 points since March 2012. Americans who say it is caused mostly by natural changes in the environment have declined to 30 percent (from 37% in March).

  • A growing number of Americans believe global warming is already harming people both at home and abroad. Four in ten say people around the world are being harmed right now by climate change (40%, up 8 percentage points since March 2012), while 36 percent say global warming is currently harming people in the United States (up six points since March).
  • In addition, they increasingly perceive global warming as a threat to themselves (42%, up 13 points since March 2012), their families (46%, up 13 points), and/or people in their communities (48%, up 14 points). Americans also perceive global warming as a growing threat to people in the United States (57%, up 11 points since March 2012), in other modern industrialized countries (57%, up 8 points since March), and in developing countries (64%, up 12 points since March).
  • Today over half of Americans (58%) say they are “somewhat” or “very worried” – now at its highest level since November 2008.
  • For the first time since 2008, Americans are more likely to believe most scientists agree that global warming is happening than believe there is widespread disagreement on the subject (44% versus 36%, respectively). This is an increase of 9 percentage points since March 2012.

Recent polling has confirmed Americans are attributing their increased understanding the planet is warming to their (correct) perception that the planet is warming and the weather is getting more extreme. A Brookings poll from February found that about half of people who understand the planet is warming said that these factors were the primary influence — see Poll: Americans’ Understanding of Climate Change Increasing With More Extreme Weather, Warmer Temperatures.

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16 Responses to Poll: Growing Majority Of Americans Understand The Earth Is Warming And Humans Are The Cause

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    I suppose that this is good news, but it’s hardly time to celebrate. Note that we are back to where we were in 2008, after Gore’s movie came out. Meanwhile, the percentage of Europeans who think global warming is a “serious concern” is 87%, compared to 10% who do not:

    It’s not that Europeans are smarter than we are, or even more educated. Their economies are not dominated by fossil fuels, and European politicians and media are less corrupt and have not forgotten how to spell “public service”.

    US fossil fuel companies and our corporate media are OK with deluding only about 30-40% of the American population. As in the Senate, that’s enough to block action indefinitely. We can’t even get a carbon tax into a Congressional committee.

    We need to do two things: 1. Embark on a serious campaign to educate the American people. McKibben, Hansen, Mann, Romm, and many scientists and teachers are doing their part here. 2. Put unbearable pressure on the US media, to include sticks such as advertiser boycotts and public humiliation of poor and absent reporting.

    It’s late in the game, and we need to take ours to the next level.

  2. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Reality was always going to win, just a shame it took so long, ME

  3. Ken Barrows says:

    Yeah, so? Are Americans radically changing their habits? Or are they saying, hmmm, global warming sure seems to be a problem and why is gasoline so expensive?

    People can say anything, but what will they do?

  4. Jan says:

    Right. Also, what do anyone’s “beliefs” or “opinions” about physical reality matter if there is no understanding of _facts_? Let there be snowstorms in half the country and the graphs go upside down.

  5. rjs says:

    all that is true, no doubt…

    now, how many are willing to use half the gasoline, half the electricity, & half the heat oil next year than what they used last..

  6. Chris says:

    One big snow storm and people will stop believing global warming again.

  7. Will Fox says:

    With improvements in vehicle efficiency, etc. that would be less of a problem.

  8. Ernst says:

    “Growing majority of Americans believe that Global warming is happening”

    Then why is it that in the current election, Romney and Obama are neck and neck in the polls? Romney has made it clear that he is planning to do nothing about the issue and still, many Americans are going to vote for him.

  9. Education and consciousness-raising are key. We have to build agreement. Fifty-eight percent concerned means forty-two aren’t. That’s way too big a minority to implement the required revolutionary changes in our economic and social structure to eliminate fossil fuels.

    Media pressure may also help.

    Mike, Europe is dependent on fossil fuels, just a little less desperately so. They use plastic, fertilizer, drive cars and trains, fly, build, heat, use lights, watch tv, manufacture things. Germany, Denmark and Spain are a bit further along on renewables, but they are far from displacing fossils from predominance.

    A long way to go.

  10. BillD says:

    I think that the idea individuals who are knowledgeable about the threat of climate change can and should make a difference by personal sacrifice is naive and counterproductive. I know that climate change is a serious threat to humanity, but I still drive my fairly economical car on a 56 mile round trip commute. I am not going to move closer to work because my wife’s job is in the other direction. My home is geothermal, but, unfortunately, I live in a state where most electricity is generated by coal. I am going to continue taking vacations in far away place and we will continue visiting grandchildren who live about 500 miles away. We recycle, but that effect is almost negligible to the big picture.

    What do we need to get a significant reduction in green house gas emissions. I support a carbon tax and/or cap and trade that gradually raises the cost of gasoline to $10-$16/gallon in current US dollars. The cost of coal with its greater CO2 emissions would increase at a higher rate. Some of the money generated by these policies would be returned to people at an equal per capita rate and some would be used for accelerating the transition to renewable energy and increasing public transportation. Gas is already about $8/gallon in some European countries and my wife’s VW diesel gets 45 miles/gallon. In the near future gas should be over $8/gallon in the US and cars that get less than 50 miles/gallon will be labeled “gas guzzlers.”

    I think that we may be closer such policies than current polls indicate. A couple of years of catastrophic crop failures seem very plausible after this summer’s drought. A really big spike in food prices would cause the starvation of 100’s of millions of people in poor countries. It’s possible, but I am not optimistic that our country and the world can deal with the direct damage of extreme weather and the costs of combating climate change while avoiding economic depression and civil breakdown. What is clear is that the risks and costs are going up steeply with every year of business as usual.

  11. Chris says:

    Probably it’s because while they may believe it is happening and people are causing it, they may not believe just how truly screwed we are if we don’t stop it, or they think it’s one of those things we’ll geoengineer our way out of. And probably religious reasons. I don’t see the Kansas going blue anytime soon because they fear a return to the dust bowl days and will push Republicans to do climate change. They are more concerned about minorities, abortion, gays and guns. (Apologies to any in Kansas reading this, you are one of the smarter ones.)

  12. prokaryotes says:

    Yes, we require a drastic carbon tax to make an impact at this stage. But if possible i would recommend a switch to an electric car, because of the additional immediate health benefits from less cancer causing fumes and to help the industry to get on foot – large scale production.

  13. prokaryotes says:

    Yes, it the “climate weirding”, certainly is quiet complex in all it’s interactions and feedback mechanism.

    The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported on October 10: “Changes in summer Arctic wind patterns contribute not only to an unprecedented loss of Arctic sea ice, but could also bring about shifts in North American and European weather, according to a new NOAA-led study published today in Geophysical Research Letters. … The researchers say that with more solar energy going into the Arctic Ocean because of lost ice, there is reason to expect more extreme weather events, such as heavy snowfall, heat waves, and flooding in North America and Europe…”

  14. Tom Harris says:

    Well, among those who know anything at all about climate history, how many would NOT say there has been overall warming since 1862 (which is what the poll asked)?

    The question asked is not what the debate is about.

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Wyrd, a fine old word, meaning fate, that which happens ( as in ‘shit happens’ in this context)has the added meaning not of inexorability, but of fate as something endured, but which can be influenced, particularly if we keep our courage up. Perhaps we need to ride our wyrd to the end, and trust that it not be too bitter. Of course, we could just give up, and ‘get wired’.

  16. prokaryotes says:

    A huge piece of an Antarctic glacier is on its way to breaking apart and becoming an iceberg wider than Manhattan.