Ready for Good News? Americans Are Getting Smarter About Climate Change

Sure, President Donald Trump has backed out of the Paris Agreement, and his team continually balks at giving a concrete opinion on whether or not climate change is real. The good news is that Americans aren’t following Trump’s lead with this climate change denial.

A biannual survey conducted by Yale and George Mason Universities confirms that Americans have much more reasonable views on climate change that the White House. Thank goodness!

The most important take-away from the survey: seven out of ten Americans believe climate change is legitimate. On the opposing side, just 13 percent of Americans think climate change is not happening.

Moreover, the confidence on this matter is increasing. 46 percent of Americans are either “extremely sure” or “very sure” of climate change’s threat, compared to just 7 percent who are “extremely sure” or “very sure” that climate change is not occurring.

A lot of politicians hide behind the excuse that while climate change may be happening, that doesn’t mean humankind is responsible for it. Fortunately, Americans aren’t subscribing to that convenient theory that allows our leaders to take no action. Currently 58 percent of Americans say climate change is primarily the result of human action, while just 30 percent chalk it up to nature – the lowest rate ever recorded in this survey.

On top of that, Americans are starting to wake up to the consequences of climate change. 59 percent believe that global warming is affecting the weather, 35 percent think climate change is already harming people in their own country and about half of all Americans think climate change will cause “a great deal of harm” to the Earth (49 percent), plants and animals (49 percent) and future generations of people (50 percent).

As for the worst-case scenario, more minds are traveling in that direction, too. 40 percent of Americans think the odds are better than 50 percent that global warming will cause humans to go extinct at some point down the road.

That outlook may be due in part to the obstruction by our political leaders. While 48 percent of Americans think that humans do have the knowledge and tools to prevent climate change destruction, just 7 percent think that people will take the steps necessary to accomplish that.

Parts of the survey do serve as a reality check for environmentalists. Believe it or not, only 13 percent of Americans realize that there is an overwhelming scientific consensus (over 90 percent support) on the subject of climate change. Clearly, fossil fuel interests have managed to drown out that irrefutable stat by falsely painting climate change as some sort of ongoing debate.

Another disheartening stat is that most Americans don’t discuss climate change with their loved ones. Despite becoming increasingly aware of the threat it poses, 67 percent say the subject comes up with their relatives and friends “rarely or never.” Obviously, making climate change a topic of conversation is essential to spurring along legitimate change.

Overall, however, the survey shows that Americans are trending in the right direction toward accepting not just the existence but long-term dangers of failing to address climate change. That’s an important step in the right direction, but until Americans make a commitment to only vote for politicians who hold the same viewpoints, we’re doomed to see no action taken.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

128 comments

Paul B
Paul B1 months ago

Annabel, what I do know is that it isn't fair for western civilization to enjoy the benefits of cheap energy while denying the poorest nations to do the same thing. In many cases the world has refused them that right and instead forcing them to use alternative energy sources that are more expensive and less efficient. That is what I feel isn't "fair." Every nation should be able to choose their own sources of energy. We are NOT under Global control which is what you are suggesting. Plus, you are "assuming" that our energy usage is causing global warming which a debate that is anything BUT settled despite the pressure from the left that claims it is.

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Alexis Miller
Alexis Miller1 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld2 months ago

Annabel,
Thanks. Have a nice holiday. I look forward to more invigorating discussions. It is nice to have someone who cares enough to research the issue and post intelligently. Take care.

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini2 months ago

Dan
The sad thing is I guess neither of us will be around to see which predictions turn out to have been correct! Whatever happens my conviction is that we polluting humans will do well to curb our destructive habits for the good of the planet.

I'm off on holiday and won't be in contact until September, so good bye for now. Have a good summer!

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld2 months ago

Annabel,
Yes, there are all sorts of predictions out there. Some may materialize, others will not. Unfortunately, the most catastrophic predictions make the biggest splash, and receive the most headlines. In 2007, Prof. Maslowski predicted that the Arctic would be ice-free by 2016. Last year, the minimum Arctic sea ice was higher than in 2007. After the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season (the most active on record), Kevin Trenberth proclaimed that we had entered a new normal of intensified hurricane activity due to global warming. In the ten years since, we have seen some of the lowest hurricane activity, with no major hurricane striking the U.S. coast since until Hermine last September. In 2005, the UN predicted that climate change would create 50 million refugees by 2010, due mainly to sea level rise. Hasn't happened. Of course the greatest failure has to be Paul Ehrlich's 1968 Population Bomb, in which he predicted that hundreds of millions of people will starve to death by the early 1980s. Global hunger has been falling ever since. The majority claims of slow warming and small changes over time fail to make headlines, and are buried on the back page.

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Margie F
Margie FOURIE2 months ago

Thank you

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini2 months ago

Dan
On the other hand, as you certainly know, there are several studies which forecast the desertification of Southern Europe by the end of the century. Who to believe?

Yes, I agree one can be cynical about politicians and skeptical about non-rigorous science!

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld2 months ago

Annabel,

I was not offended by the cynical remark, as I did state that I was cynical about the benevolence of politicians.

I belong to the UCS, and am concerned about their increasing politicization. Nevertheless, according to one of the most extensive research articles on the subject (that I have found), the tropics have shown a decrease in rainfall. However, since they are the wettest places on the planet, this may not be significant (some have claimed that the mass cutting of some of the rain forests has been a major culprit). North Africa also showed a decrease, but this is largely desert, and may not be significant due to influences in annual variations. The article did not specifically mention your other locations, but looking at their figures it appears accurate. They did show increased precipitation in much of the mid-latitudes, including Europe, the U.S., and South America. This is significant, as these are the highest food producing regions. This is really not too surprising as global warming theory states that precipitation is expected to move pole-ward from the tropics to the mid-latitudes. Much research has focused on the U.S. Southwest. Evidence shows several instances of mega-droughts, lasting decades, during the medieval warm period. This would not bode well for the future, if this was caused by the warmer temperatures of the times.

https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/wv

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini2 months ago

Dan
Whatever nature.com says, if you google 'is drought increasing?' you get a long list of apparently serious scientific sites explaining that droughts are on the rise. I don't know if you accept the Concerned Scientists as reliable but just to use their words to sum up what most of these sites say, 'Precipitation has declined in the tropics and subtropics since 1970. Southern Africa, the Sahel region of Africa, southern Asia, the Mediterranean, and the U.S. Southwest, for example, are getting drier.' So as always there are different opinions and you take your pick.

My 'cynical' remark was aimed at Paul B., not you.

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld2 months ago

Annabel,
Without specifics, I cannot say whether or not they are connected. I can say that [in general] rising temperatures lead to increased rainfall, and consequently, increased flooding, and decreased drought. See the Nature article about recent global drought. Figure 5 (included) shows how drought has decreased from ~35% of the globe to ~30% during the 30-year warming period. The most severe droughts (D3 and D4) have decreased similarly.

https://www.nature.com/articles/sdata20141
https://www.nature.com/articles/sdata20141/figures/5

This decrease in global drought has been one of the factors in decreased hunger over the past decades. On the flip side, increased flooding has its own issues.
Locally, rainfall has a large influence on temperature, such that your local heat may be cause by the drought, not vise versa. Even without the rain, clouds go a long way in moderating temperatures.

Decreases in wildlife are usually connected to man's activities, although not usually climate-related. Deforestation and pesticide usage (and other pollutants) are typically the dominant factors. Nature is connected in so many ways, that disruptions in one area can have long ranging effects. Do you think my cynicism is affecting your standing? Scientists are often cynics. We prefer evidence in order to arrive at conclusions, rather than assumptions and proclamations.

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