Storms, Trump drive climate worries to record high — poll

Source: Christa Marshall, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, November 17, 2017

The percentage of Americans who say they are “very worried” about global warming has hit a record high since it was first measured in 2008, according to a poll released today by Yale and George Mason universities.

The biannual “Climate Change in the American Mind” survey found several record highs or near-record highs in opinion on the issue, including the highest percentage of Americans ever saying they’re being harmed “right now” by climate change. Forty-two percent of respondents now say that, compared with 33 percent in 2008.

Seventy-one percent of Americans now say global warming is happening, tying the record in 2008. Sixty-three percent of respondents say they are either very worried or somewhat worried about the topic, an all-time high.

Edward Maibach, director of George Mason’s Center for Climate Change Communication, said recent extreme weather and concerns about the Trump administration’s policies are likely driving climate concerns.

“The devastating storms and flooding in the southern U.S. and Puerto Rico, and the equally devastating fires in the western U.S. over the past several months, have likely helped Americans understand that climate change is no longer a distant issue,” Maibach said. “Americans are beginning to recognize that climate change is here, now, and it’s dangerous.”

Of concerns about President Trump’s efforts to roll back climate regulations, Maibach said that under the Obama administration, Americans had the comfort of knowing that “somebody was awake at the wheel.”

But while worries about climate are high, the survey shows challenges for lawmakers wanting to curb emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

The percentage of Americans who think warming is man-made is down 4 points from the spring, and lower than it was in 2008. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they think warming is caused by humans.

Maibach said it’s unclear why public understanding of the human causes of climate change isn’t increasing. The numbers echo the comments of Trump administrations officials who have said the climate is changing, even though they are unsure of the cause.

The survey also documents that 1 in 7 Americans understand that more than 90 percent of climate scientists agree that humans are causing global warming.

Other findings from the George Mason-Yale research:

  • Americans who think global warming is happening outnumber those who think it is not by more than 5 to 1.
  • About 2 in 3 Americans, or 64 percent, think global warming is affecting weather in the United States, and 1 in 3 think weather is being affected “a lot.” That’s an increase of 8 percentage points since May.
  • Forty-four percent of Americans say they have personally experienced the effects of global warming, an increase of 13 percentage points since March.

The survey was conducted from Oct. 20 to Nov. 1 via interviews with 1,304 adults. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The research was funded by the 11th Hour Project, the Energy Foundation, the Grantham Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation.