Many Americans Are Changing their Minds About Global Warming

BY ON January 24, 2019

hands holding globe colored brain

The latest survey from the Climate Change in the American Mind series (December 2018), conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication in tandem with the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, has been released.

I wrote about last year’s findings with a deep dive into the poll.

This time around, I will revisit many of those updated figures, because they illustrate the rise in American awareness to the issue of global warming. Then I will note what I see as a top takeaway.

The good news is that the number of Americans concerned about global warming has increased since March 2018. More people believe it is happening, and they get that they are at risk for potential harm.

In 2011, generalized concern about global warming was at a low ebb. The newest numbers now compute at triple that rate.

More Americans note they have been “personally” impacted, one explanation for the situation resonating to a greater degree for them.

Here is what the numbers currently confirm:

  • 73 percent of Americans think that global warming is real.
  • 14 percent of Americans don’t think global warming is real.
  • 51 percent of Americans are “extremely” sure global warming is happening.
  • 62 percent of Americans comprehend that global warming is primarily human-caused.
  • About 29 percent of Americans are very worried about global warming, the highest level since the initial survey in 2008.
  • 57 percent of Americans get that the majority of scientists are in agreement that global-warming is the result of “human-caused” activity.
  • Only one in five Americans knows that over 90 percent of scientists are in agreement that global warming is human-caused.

Another reason to celebrate: Despite those who foresee a doomsday scenario (perhaps as a way of doing nothing), 66 percent of Americans strongly (38%) or somewhat (28%) disagree with the concept that it is too late in the game to stave off global warming.

56 percent of Americans stated that they see or hear coverage of global warming in the media at least once per month. That is an increase of 13 points since March 2018. However, it would be even better if media consumers demanded that outlets devote more coverage to environmental issues, explaining on-the-ground facts to their audiences and advancing science literacy.

The media has closely covered the hurricanes and forest fires that have hit the country. That could be why 65 percent of Americans think global warming is affecting weather in the United States. Americans have also clearly seen that extreme weather events can hit their own backyards. This may account for elevated numbers reflecting fears about water shortages (51 percent), extreme heat (61 percent), droughts (58 percent) and flooding (61 percent).

A sidebar observation: Despite the constant drumbeat of climate denialism from the Trump administration, most Americans were not impressed with the corruption that led to the demise of EPA head Scott Pruitt and Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke. This led to greater attention on the state of environmental matters.

Now, here’s what I think is very interesting stuff…

The report delves into a topic titled, “Personal and Social Engagement.”

It introduces two terms (Descriptive and Injunctive) used in the psychology of social norms, to explain how people are swayed by the behavior of others.

In essence, most people are influenced by those around them. So, when individual Americans see that friends and family are concerned about global warming, or that they are doing something specific about it — those behaviors act as a catalyst and motivator for them to also be proactive.

This is extremely useful information, because it demonstrates that the work of activists, like Moms Clean Air Force, can influence those around them.

The 2018 IPCC report should have been a major wake-up call to our elected officials.

This study proves that the power of speaking out and sharing our views is a viable way to create change.

We need to continue demanding accountability from those who would put upcoming generations, and the future of the planet, at risk.


TOPICS: Activism, Climate Change, Environment