April 19, 2012
Americans Finally Warming Up To Climate Change
After experiencing several years of severe weather, including extreme heat, droughts and tornadoes in unusual locations, it seems the public has finally come around to the idea of global warming.
A poll released on Wednesday reveals many Americans believe the wild weather of late has been magnified due to global warming. The majority of Americans believe the weather has been getting worse, by a margin of 2 to 1.
This survey is the most detailed of its kind, measuring the public´s response to the weather extremes. In conjecture with this study is another poll showing increasing concern about climate change. Combined, it can be safely assumed the public now views global warming as a very real threat instead of a theory.
When they began their study a decade ago, many Americans viewed global warming and climate change as a problem to be dealt with many years in the future. Study researcher Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, said the public viewed these problems as ““¦a problem about polar bears and Bangladesh, but not in my state, not in my community, not for the people and places I care about.”
"What's interesting about these results is that it suggests Americans are beginning to internalize climate change, to bring it into the here and now," Leiserowitz told LiveScience. "The past two years have been filled with a seemingly endless succession of extreme weather events."
Leiserowitz and his team wanted to find out how many people had been affected by the recent string of wild weather, how they were harmed by it and how they felt about climate change afterwards. The team conducted the survey with more than 1,000 Americans ages 18 and over between March 12 and March 30, 2012.
Of these Americans, 72% said they believed global warming was at its worst during the most recent unusually warm winter. 70% of participants believed global warming was at its worst during the extreme heat of summer 2011. 69% attributed global warming to the Texas and Oklahoma droughts, 61% for the record snowfall in 2010 and 2011, and` 63% for the Mississippi floods of 2011.
Most surprising to the researchers was the amount of Americans who reported being personally affected by extreme weather. 35% of participants said last year´s weather struck particularly close to home, as extreme weather disasters struck nearly every region of the United States last year.
As these events become more dangerous and more frequent, Dr. Leiserowitz says the “very simplistic mental model of what global warming is supposed to be,” will go by the wayside.
Now that the majority of the American public are not only aware of the effects of global warming but also believe in them, some advocacy groups are moving in to take action.
A group called 350.org is planning series of rallies worldwide to take place on May 5 called “Connect the Dots.” The group hopes to draw attention to the link between climate change and extreme weather.
“My sense from around the country and the world is that people definitely understand that things are getting freaky,” said William E. McKibben, the founder of 350.org, according to the New York Times.
“During that crazy heat wave in March, everyone in Chicago was out enjoying the weather, but in the back of their mind they were thinking, this is not right.”