What Americans Really Think About Climate Change

By | December 26, 2013

Despite the overwhelming evidence supporting human-made climate change, less than half of Americans understand this.

In fact, Americans are becoming less concerned about the reality of global warming and are not as worried about climate change as they have been in the past. In 2006, at least 65 percent of the Americans believed that climate change was occurring. Four years later just 50 percent believe the earth is warming up.

Earlier this year, US President Obama used his executive powers to elevate and take control of climate change policies in an attempt to streamline sustainability initiatives – and potentially skirt legislative oversight and push a federal agenda on states. But while Obama might be able to side-step Congress, his bigger challenge is public opinion on the issue.

As data on the info graphic below shows, most Americans broadly acknowledge the existence of global warming and support laws aimed at reducing greenhouse gases but the don’t think global warming will seriously threaten them during their lifetimes. One-third do see a threat, a number that rose to a high of 40 percent in 2008, but has ticked down since.

The dearth of immediate concern regarding climate change helps explain the relatively low importance Americans place on trying to solve the problem. Just 14 percent of Americans said addressing global warming was an extremely important issue.

Also, even though many global warming activists have in the past used film and photos of melting ice caps and glaciers, and the expanding reach of deserts, to drive home their point that global warming is already having alarming effects on the earth, these efforts may have borne fruit till 2008 but during the last couple of years, Americans’ convictions about global warming’s effects have waned.

A majority of Americans still agree that global warming is real, as 53% say the effects of the problem have already begun or will do so in a few years. Meanwhile, 35% say that the effects of global warming either will never happen or will not happen in their lifetimes.

However, the graphic provides no details whatsoever on what Americans believe is causing global warming. It does, however, state that 84 percent of Americans do want the government to limit the amount of air pollution businesses emit. It also does not give any information on why the public opinion tide has turned.

In short, Americans’ attitudes toward the environment shows a public that over the last two years has become less worried about the threat of global warming, less convinced that its effects are already happening, and more likely to believe that scientists themselves are uncertain about its occurrence. In fact almost half the Americans now believe that the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated.

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