Public Linking Severe Weather to Climate Change
April 18, 2012
Climate Deniers respond – “This is not Happening”.
A poll due for release on Wednesday shows that a large majority of Americans believe that this year’s unusually warm winter, last year’s blistering summer and some other weather disasters were probably made worse by global warming. And by a 2-to-1 margin, the public says the weather has been getting worse, rather than better, in recent years.
The survey, the most detailed to date on the public response to weather extremes, comes atop other polling showing a recent uptick in concern about climate change. Read together, the polls suggest that direct experience of erratic weather may be convincing some people that the problem is no longer just a vague and distant threat.
“Most people in the country are looking at everything that’s happened; it just seems to be one disaster after another after another,” said Anthony A. Leiserowitz of Yale University, one of the researchers who commissioned the new poll. “People are starting to connect the dots.”
In 2011, Americans experienced a record-breaking 14 weather and climate disasters that each caused $1 billion or more in damages, in total costing approximately $53 billion, along with incalculable loss of human life. These disasters included severe drought in Texas and the Great Plains, Hurricane Irene along the eastern seaboard, tornadoes in the Midwest, and massive floods in the Mississippi River Valley. In the period of January through March 2012, Americans also experienced record warm temperatures, with temperatures across the contiguous United States 6.0 degrees F above the long-term average. In March alone, 15,292 warm temperature records were broken across the United States.
In March 2012 we conducted a nationally representative survey and found that a large majority of Americans say they personally experienced an extreme weather event or natural disaster in the past year. A majority of Americans also say the weather in the United States is getting worse and many report that extreme weather in their own local area has become more frequent and damaging. Further, large majorities believe that global warming made a number of recent extreme weather events worse.A majority of Americans say that unusual weather events have occurred in the past twelve months in both their local area (56%) and elsewhere in the U.S. (62%). Overall, 82 percent of Americans report that they personally experienced one or more types of extreme weather or natural disaster in the past year. These include extreme high winds (60%), extreme rainstorms (49%), extreme heat waves (42%), drought (34%), extreme cold temperatures (29%), extreme snowstorms (26%), tornadoes (21%), floods (19%), hurricanes (16%) or wildfires (15%).
People in the Northeast are more likely to report having personally experienced extreme high winds, rainstorms, cold temperatures, snowstorms, floods and hurricanes in the past year. People in the Midwest are more likely to report having personally experienced extreme high winds, rainstorms, snowstorms, and tornadoes. People in the South are more likely to report having experienced an extreme heat wave or drought, while people in the West are more likely to report having experienced a wildfire in the past year.