New Poll on American Climate Change Beliefs: Noticing Weather, Want Government Action, But Personal Concern Unclear

The Washington Post and Stanford University conducted a poll on Americans’ climate change belief and concern in June 2012. This Washington Post article on the poll below states, “Americans polled by The Post and Stanford do see climate change as occurring: Six in 10 say weather patterns around the world have been more unstable in the past three years than previously,” but in looking at the poll’s exact wording, whether Americans actually connect the changing weather to climate change is unclear. Yes, noticing changing weather patterns has gone up 12% in the past year, but those that believe temperatures have been rising over the past 100 years dropped 10%, and the questions do not ask whether these changes (or lack of changes) are associated to climate change. Additionally, the poll seems to indicate people are not as concerned personally about climate change, but more do believe the nation needs to take more action on fighting it; strong personal concern (i.e. “how important is the issue of global warming”= extremely or very important) dropped since 2011 from 42% to 38% , but 78% (up 3%) believe that if nothing is done to reduce global warming, it will be a “serious” or “somewhat serious” problem for the US (81% for the world). The full poll that includes questions on trust in scientists, businesses, and political leaders on the topic of climate change can be read here.

Temperatures climbing, weather more unstable, a majority says in poll
Cross-post from Washington Post
by Juliet Eilperin and Peyton M. Craighill

Most Americans say they believe temperatures around the world are going up and that weather patterns have become more unstable in the past few years, according to a new poll from The Washington Post and Stanford University.

But they also see future warming as something that can be addressed, and majorities want government action across a range of policies to curb energy consumption, with more support for tax breaks than government mandates.

The findings come as the federal government released a report Tuesday suggesting the connection between last year’s severe weather and climate change. According to the study issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, changes fueled by the burning of fossil fuels made the 2011 heat wave in Texas 20 times more likely to occur compared with conditions in the 1960s.

In the report, the scientists compared the phenomenon to a baseball or cricket player’s improved performance after taking steroids.

“For any one of his home runs (sixes) during the years the player was taking steroids, you would not know for sure whether it was caused by steroids or not,” they wrote in the report, which will be published in a forthcoming Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. “But you might be able to attribute his increased number to the steroids.”

The study made distinctions between November’s high temperatures in the United Kingdom — which it said were 62 times more likely because of climate change — and severe floods last year in Thailand, which it attributed more to poor land-use planning.

Americans polled by The Post and Stanford do see climate change as occurring: Six in 10 say weather patterns around the world have been more unstable in the past three years than previously, a perception that’s changed little since 2006. Nearly as many also say average temperatures were higher during the past three years than before that.

In terms of what can be done about it, about 55 percent say a “great deal” or “good amount” can be done to reduce future global warming. At the same time, 60 percent of those polled say it will be extremely or very difficult for people to stop it.

Americans are leery of broad-based tax increases to address the problem. More than 70 percent oppose policies that would rely on tax increases on electricity or gas to change individual behavior, while 66 percent favor tax breaks to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Fewer, 20 percent, want the government to stay out of regulating greenhouse gases altogether.

About two-thirds want the United States to be a world leader addressing the problem, even if other major industrial countries do not pitch in. But being a world leader doesn’t translate into direct help for poor countries that may suffer from global warming: Just 24 percent think the U.S. government should provide a great deal or a lot of help to such countries.

Read the full article here

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