Is it Warming Yet? More Americans Say,.. “Like,..Duhh…”
July 19, 2012
A record heat wave, drought and catastrophic wildfires are accomplishing what climate scientists could not: convincing a wide swath of Americans that global temperatures are rising.
In the four months since March there has been a jump in U.S. citizens’ belief that climate change is taking place, especially among independent voters and those in southern states such as Texas, which is now in its second year of record drought, according to nationwide polls by the University of Texas.
In a poll taken July 12-16, 70 percent of respondents said they think the climate is changing, compared with 65 percent in a similar poll in March. Those saying it’s not taking place fell to 15 percent from 22 percent, according to data set to be released this week by the UT Energy Poll.
Following a winter of record snowfall in 2010, the public’s acceptance of climate change fell to a low of 52 percent, according to the National Survey of American Public Opinion on Climate Change, which was published by the Brookings Institution in Washington. After this year’s mild winter, support jumped to 65 percent, the same as that found by the UT Energy Poll in March.
“There has been a rebound in belief” in global warming, Barry Rabe, a University of Michiganprofessor who published the research on the Brookings study. “All respondents are quite likely to use observations of weather as a big part of their explanation.”
With 70 percent of Americans now agreeing that global warming is affecting weather in the U.S., the public is showing increasing support for measures that would tackle the problem of climate change, according to a new survey. Conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, the survey showed that 60 percent of Americans would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports legislation that would reduce the federal income tax and make up for that decrease in revenue by increasing taxes on fossil fuels. The ongoing survey — which divides the U.S. public into six categories on global warming, from the alarmed to the dismissive — showed that an overwhelming majority of people who identified themselves as alarmed, concerned, or cautious about global warming say that if people with their views worked together, they could influence politicians’ views on global warming. The people in these three groups, as well as people who described themselves as disengaged on the issue of global warming, said by a wide margin that they trusted President Obama more than Mitt Romney as a source of information on climate change. Only people who described themselves as dismissive of human-caused climate change said they trusted Romney more than Obama on the issue, the Yale survey showed.
While the survey didn’t ask about the causes of climate change, Sheril Kirshenbaum, the poll director, said “there is no debate” that man-made carbon emissions are warming the planet. “We need to get beyond arguing if it’s occurring and start developing policies to adapt to extreme weather events and rising sea levels,” she said in an e-mail.
Still, the American public’s views on the issue are linked to recent trends in the weather, Rabe said.
The jump in public opinion over the past four months took place in southern states, including drought-ravaged Texas, where it climbed 13 percentage points to 70 percent this month, according to the poll. Other areas of the country showed modest variations in levels of support.
The latest University of Texas poll also found a sharp divide between political parties, with 87 percent of Democrats saying climate change is taking place compared with 53 percent of Republicans. In March 45 percent of Republican respondents said climate change is happening.
Among independent voters, those saying temperatures are rising jumped to 72 percent in July from 60 percent in March.
Partisan affiliation is the best predictor of someone’s belief in climate change, Rabe said.
I suspect partisan affiliation is also the best predictor of whether you think those WMDs are still out there, that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, or that the latest Batman movie is part of a nefarious communist plot.