In a report released Thursday by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, 70% of Americans now say they believe global warming is a reality. This is the highest level of concern since 2008, when it was at 58%.
“Historically Americans have viewed climate change as a distant problem — distant in time and distant in space — and perceived that it wasn’t something that involved them,” said environmental scientist and lead author Anthony Leiserowitz. “That gap is beginning to close, however … we’re seeing a jump in the number of people who believe it will affect them or their families.”
Although it was higher prior to 2008, coming in at 71%, researchers believe that the recession played a part in the decrease in 2010, where it was at 57%. Researchers think that the public perception changed on global warming due to the economic worries that took precedence in people’s minds.
Here’s more on the new report from the LA Times:
In recent years, however, the number of people who say that global warming is real has grown steadily, according to study authors.
“Additional analysis is required to determine why Americans increasingly believe that global warming is happening, but it is likely due to a number of factors, including the record number of extreme weather events that have occurred over the past two years, including heat waves, widespread drought, floods, wildfires and violent storms. Indeed … more Americans think that the weather in the United States is getting worse.”
Among the study’s findings were the following:
— Those who believe global warming is happening are more certain than those who do not. Over half of Americans who believe global warming is happening (57%) say they are “very” (30%) or “extremely sure” (27%).
— For the first time since 2008, more than half of Americans (54%) believe global warming is caused mostly by human activities. The proportion of Americans who say it is caused mostly by natural changes in the environment has declined to 30%.
— A growing number of Americans believe global warming is already harming people both at home and abroad. Four in 10 say people around the world are being harmed right now by climate change, while 36% say global warming is currently harming people in the United States.
The study was conducted online with a survey of 1,061 American adults.
William Patzert, a NASA climatologist and oceanographer, said that while it was clear that the planet was warming due to human production of greenhouse gases, it was less clear to him that recent droughts and record-breaking heat were direct results.
“Have these events been a preview of coming attractions? The answer is, maybe,” Patzert said. “There are all kinds of scenarios. You know, there is a possibility that floods and droughts will become less intense. But the important thing to realize is that climate will shift. Patterns of rainfall and temperature, upon which our present civilization was built, will change in unknown ways, and that’s scary.”
While not at the 97% level that climate scientists are at, the Yale study shows a growing number of Americans say their minds have already been made up, from 23% in May of last year to 30% today. “But a solid majority — 70% — said they would like at least a ‘little more’ information on the subject, study authors wrote.”