American Public Concern About Global Warming Hits Three-Decade High

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By Glynn Wilson –

In spite of false rhetoric from Republican politicians in the United States and fake news claiming there is no such thing as global warming, a record number of Americans are concerned about climate change due to global warming, they believe it is occurring now and consider it a serious threat, and say it is caused by human activity, according to the latest Gallup poll on the subject.

All of these public perceptions are up significantly from 2015, according to public opinion surveys.

To be exact, 45 percent of Americans now say they worry “a great deal” about global warming, a figure that is up from 37 percent just one year ago and well above the recent low point of 25 percent in 2011. The previous high was 41 percent, recorded in 2007.

Another 21 percent currently say they worry “a fair amount” about global warming, while 18 percent worry “only a little” and 16 percent are not worried at all.

“Americans’ level of worry about global warming has seesawed over the past two decades,” Gallup says in announcing the findings. “Several plausible reasons for the fluctuations include the May 2006 release of ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ highlighting U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s aim to educate Americans about global warming, as well as controversy from 2009 to 2011 surrounding global warming research.”

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The dip in concern between 2007 and 2011 may reflect public attention being diverted to the economy during the recession and post-recession years.

“Unusual weather, particularly record-breaking warm temperatures in the U.S. in recent years, may explain increases in public concern,” Gallup says.

The findings come from surveys in the first week of March after scientists recorded the second-warmest February ever.

In addition to warmer weather, “anxiety about President Donald Trump’s environmental stance” expressing skepticism of the science proving the phenomenon could be a factor in public concern. Trump has joined other pro-big business Republicans in calling the science of global warming a “hoax.”

In the latest poll, 57 percent of Americans say they expect Trump will do a poor job of protecting the environment, far exceeding the numbers of Americans predicting the same for Barack Obama or George W. Bush.

Sixty-two percent of Americans now believe the effects of global warming have already begun to happen, according to Gallup, up from 61 percent in 2008 and 49 percent in 2011.

“Americans’ belief that global warming is already creating problems is about as high now as it was in 2007 and 2008,” Gallup says, when extreme weather events such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 had become part of the national discussion.

Gallup polls at the time showed Democratic leaning voters especially concerned about the effects of global warming, but concern dipped in 2009 as the national focus in the media shifted to the Bush Great Recession and controversies such as Climategate, when some scientists emails were released and raised doubts about some of the research.

Beyond the 62 percent of Americans who believe the effects of global warming have already begun, another quarter of the country thinks they will happen eventually — either within a few years (4 percent), within their lifetime (7 percent) or further into the future (16 percent). Only 9 percent of the people say effects will never happen.

A large majority of Americans, 68 percent, say increases in Earth’s temperatures over the past century are mainly due to the effects of pollution from human activities, while only 29 percent are willing to attribute global warming to natural changes in the environment.

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These opinions were gathered prior to the new Environmental Protection Agency chief, Scott Pruitt, making the statement that he is not persuaded that human activity is a primary factor in global warming.

An even higher number of people, 71 percent, agree that most scientists believe global warming is occurring. This is up from 65 percent a year ago and is easily the highest Gallup has recorded since 1997. The low point was 52 percent in 2010.

“Although Americans widely acknowledge global warming and humans’ role in it, a key reason climate change ranked last in importance as a voting issue in 2016 may be that the public discounts the severity of the problem — at least in the short term,” Gallup says. “Less than half (42 percent) believe global warming will pose a serious threat to themselves or their way of life in their lifetime.”

Since Republicans often say they also don’t believe in polls, here are the survey methods used to gather this data.

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 1-5, 2017, with a random sample of 1,018 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70 percent cellphone respondents and 30 percent landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

© 2017, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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