Sunday 23rd October 2016                 Change text size:

Poll: two-thirds of Americans accept climate change is happening

greenhouse gas by Climate and Ecosystems Change Adaptation Research University Network via flickr

Around two in three Americans believe that global warming is happening, though scepticism increased in 2013, according to a new survey.

The study, undertaken by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communications, recorded a 7% increase in the proportion of people in the US who do not believe global warming is happening, up to 23% since April 2013.

However, 63% of respondents said they believe global warming is happening, a number that has been consistent since spring 2013. Thirty-eight per cent said they were “somewhat” worried about climate change, while 15% said they were “very worried”.

Sixty-five percent – curiously a larger proportion than that which believes climate change is happening now – said they believe global warming will harm future generations.

The growth in public scepticism does not reflect any change in the scientific consensus.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s review of climate science, published in September, concluded that the leading scientists were 95% certain that the current trend of global warming was being caused by human activity – the same degree of certainty scientists have in the link between smoking and cancer.

Ed Maibach of George Mason University, the leader of one of the two teams responsible for the survey, said they believe the trend was influenced by media coverage of the so-called global warming “pause”.

Speaking to Mother Jones, Maibac said, “It is possible that this simple—albeit erroneous—idea helped to convince many people who were previously undecided to conclude that the climate really isn’t changing.

“Even more likely, however, is that media coverage of the ‘pause’ reinforced the beliefs of people who had previously concluded that global warming is not happening, making them more certain of their beliefs.”

Around four in 10 said they feel “helpless” (43%), “disgusted” (42%), or “sad” (40%) when thinking about global warming, but 42% also said they feel “hopeful.” 

Further reading:

Climate change denial relies on ‘untraceable’ funding

72% of Britons say living standards more important than climate change

Lawson, climate change and the power of wishful thinking

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