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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).

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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.

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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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