Americans Believe in Climate Change More than Global Warming

Rationale for why research shows Americans are more likely to believe in "climate change" than "global warming" is explored in this TreeHugger article.  The research's lead author Jonathon Schuldt believes that because "global warming focuses attention on temperature increases," an abnormally cold day can encourage doubt, while climate changes focuses "on more general changes."


Posted on TreeHugger
March 9, 2011

Americans Believe in Climate Change More than Global Warming

by Matthew McDermott

global warming word cloud image
image: WoodleyWonderWorks/Creative Commons

Would an environmental disaster by another name be taken more seriously? Apparently the answer is yes. New research shows that Americans are more likely to be skeptical about 'global warming' than about 'climate change'. I think many people have intuitively known this for some time, but a study coming out of the University of Michigan, to be published in Public Opinion Quarterly, gives us some stats on how important language can be on this issue.

Of the 2,000-something US adults surveyed, 74% of people thought the issue was real when it was referred to as 'climate change', but that drops to 68% when it's termed 'global warming'. Perhaps not a huge difference, but significant.

Breaking that down on US political party lines, 60% of Republicans thought that climate change was real versus 44% for global warming. For Democrats, 86% though that climate change was a serious problem regardless of wording.

Speaking of the results study lead author Jonathon Schuldt says (perhaps stating the obvious…),

While global warming focuses attention on temperature increases, climate change focuses attention on more general changes. Thus, an unusually cold day may increase doubts about global warming more so than about climate change. Given these different associations and the partisan nature of this issue, climate change believers and skeptics might be expected to vary in their use of these terms. (Science Daily)

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