May 3, 2013
Americans Increasingly Blaming Extreme Weather On Climate Change
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
A new report from Yale University has provided new insight into how Americans currently perceive major weather events with respect to climate change. According to the report, 58 percent of Americans see a correlation between modern changes in the weather and climate on a global scale.
"People are beginning to recognize a pattern of extreme weather across the country and are themselves saying 'Aha, I wonder if climate change has something to do with that,'" Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and lead author of the report, told NBC News.
The report is based on a phone survey of 1,045 adults conducted between April 8 and 15, with a 3 percent margin of error.
Leiserowitz noted about half the country said climate change is directly causing extreme weather events. In the survey, about 50 percent of respondents connected climate change to the Midwest drought that extends back to 2012 and 46 percent associate it with Hurricane Sandy.
Many climatologists that link carbon emissions to climate change are reluctant to draw too close of a connection between global climate and day-to-day weather events. However, many liken the current climate to an athlete on steroids — capable of having a harder impact.
"The attribution of changes in climate on extremes is a difficult and thorny scientific puzzle requiring long-term data," Roger Pielke Jr., a scientific policy researcher at the University of Colorado, told NBC News.
"Unfortunately, the human experience – in one place at a time and over a generation – is not a solid basis for such attribution,” added Pielke, who was not involved in the Yale study.
However, the scientific community is beginning to embrace the notion of individual events being facilitated by climate change, according to Leiserowitz — who noted “that basic line has begun to shift.”
The Yale researcher said the conclusions the public is drawing about extreme weather and climate change are consistent with published science. While climate change doesn't essentially create the weather events, it increases the odds, he said.
Americans are also pessimistic about the prospects of climate change as about 66 percent of Americans said the weather has been "worse" during past couple years -- an increase of 12 percentage points from last year. About 11 percent of those surveyed said the weather has gotten better -- a drop of 16 points. Over half of respondents said extreme weather will directly affect their community in the next year.
Despite that pessimistic attitude, only about 30 percent of Americans said they are actually prepared for just such an event. Leiserowitz said the result of his study should emphasize the need for individuals and communities to develop an emergency preparation plan and get "ready for the unknown event that is going to happen in your lifetime at some point.”
Another recent report found the US population is expected to grow the most in the very coastal areas that could see the greatest impact of massive storms like Hurricane Sandy.
Released by the Department of Energy´s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the report said this trend could result in double the economic losses from extreme weather by 2050.