Global Warming & Extreme Weather Linked — Scientists Have Known It, Americans Getting It


Climate scientists have been warning use for decades that global warming isn’t just about higher temperatures — it’s also about some seriously extreme weather. Such weather, we all know, destroys homes, destroys offices, ruins cities, and kills people. It has taken awhile for the public (and the mainstream media) to make any connection between the two, but it seems Americans are finally starting to get it.

The scientific consensus on this matter has only grown over the past few decades. That might be one reason why the public is more aware of this fact. However, I think the reason for the increase in awareness is primarily just due to the fact that we’re seeing more and more extreme weather. As Nathan noted the other day, belief in global warming is actually affected by the temperature of the room people are sitting in (as well as by the time of year / season)! If that’s the case, it seems that making the connection between global warming and extreme weather would also be linked to the amount of extreme weather one experiences or reads about.

As Michael Lemonick of Climate Central writes: “But like the first, outlying squalls from an oncoming hurricane, the first effects of climate change are already here, in the form of heat waves, droughts, intense rainstorms and more, and people are evidently noticing.”

But let’s get to the study….

Americans Increasingly Link Global Warming and Extreme Weather

A new report, Extreme Weather, Climate & Preparedness, by Anthony Leiserowitz and others at the Yale Project on Climate Communication, has found that “82 percent of Americans report that they personally experienced one or more types of extreme weather or a natural disaster in the past year” and “over the past several years, Americans say the weather in the U.S. has been getting worse – rather than better – by a margin of over 2 to 1 (52% vs. 22%)” and, most importantly, “a large majority of Americans believe that global warming made several high profile extreme weather events worse, including the unusually warm winter of December 2011 and January 2012 (72%), record high summer temperatures in the U.S. in 2011 (70%), the drought in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 (69%), record snowfall in the U.S. in 2010 and 2011 (61%), the Mississippi River floods in the spring of 2011 (63%), and Hurricane Irene (59%).”

Despite massive campaigns to create doubt about the existence of global warming. or about the link between global warming and extreme weather, the public is starting to get it. Of course, this is good news, it’s just a shame that it requires more extreme weather and human suffering to bring it about.

The new Yale survey was conducted last month and collected results from 1,008 adults. Notably, March set a whopping 15,000 warm temperature records, likely influencing results. However, Dr. Joe Romm of Climate Progress notes that this survey matches up with other recent polls on the matter not conducted in March:

This Yale survey matches a recent Brookings poll that found Americans’ understanding of climate change was increasing with more extreme weather and warmer temperatures. It also matches Yale’s earlier November survey finding.

This finding matches the results of September polling by ecoAmerica:

  • 69% of Americans Know “Weather Conditions (Such as Heat Waves and Droughts) Are Made Worse by Climate Change
  • 57% of Americans understand “If we don’t do something about climate change now, we can end up having our farmland turned to desert.”

The December 2011 Brookings poll found all of this extreme weather was measurably boosting the number of people who understand the planet is warming:

It’s good Americans are starting to connect the dots, but it’s a shame we don’t pay better attention and heed to scientific research that warns us about concerning issues long before we can see them in the real world. I guess the top solution for that is doing what we’re trying to do — spread important information to more people. Perhaps that has also helped — I’m more hesitant to believe that, given the studies mentioned above (in particular, the room temperature one), but this wonderful video on exactly this link has, alone, gotten a good number of views, and some media agencies seem to be picking up the ball on this issue, too:

Image Source: NYTimes

3 thoughts on “Global Warming & Extreme Weather Linked — Scientists Have Known It, Americans Getting It”

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