69% of Americans Now Express Concern About Climate Change
Climate change is a big concern for the majority of people across the globe. But what about here in the U.S.? According to a new poll from the Pew Research Center, Americans are also growing more concerned about climate impacts. As this New York Times article reports, around 69 percent of respondents said climate change is a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem, compared to 63 percent in 2010. The improving economy may be one reason for the change in opinion; the increasingly evident impacts of climate change might be another.
The results are part of a Pew survey exploring the beliefs of U.S. Catholics regarding climate change. Overall, Catholic views align fairly closely with those of the general public, with around 3/4 saying they believe climate change is a somewhat or very serious problem. However, that number is almost certain to grow now that Pope Francis’ much-anticipated encyclical about climate change has been released. In his edict, Pope Francis stated that climate change is caused mainly by human activity, and urged climate action on moral grounds, since poor populations are more vulnerable to climate impacts. In his words, “Every ecological approach needs to incorporate a social perspective which takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and the underprivileged.” Pope Francis’ popularity, not just among American Catholics but around the world, mean his words are likely to have a great deal of influence. We should make sure to build on this momentum.
By David Leonhart, contributor to The New York Times
The financial crisis made Americans less worried about climate change. The Democrats’ attempt to pass sweeping climate legislation in 2009 and 2010 probably reduced Americans’ anxiety level as well, as paradoxical as that may sound. But now Americans are getting more worried again.
About 69 percent of adults say that global warming is either a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem, according to a new Pew Research Center poll, up from 63 percent in 2010. The level of concern has still not returned to that of a decade ago; in 2006, 79 percent of adults called global warming serious.
It’s impossible to know exactly why concern about the climate fell — and why skepticism that global warming was real increased — starting around 2008. Both economics and politics probably play a role. The financial crisis and recession made Americans more worried about the immediate condition of the economy, rather than about the long-term condition of the planet.
And President Obama’s election, combined with an attempt by many Democrats to pass a climate bill, apparently caused many Republican-leaning voters to become more hostile to new climate policies. Such polarization is common across many issues, political scientists note. “As party control shifted” in 2009, note Jessica Martinez, Greg Smith and Jocelyn Kiley of Pew, “the debate about energy also shifted, and could have contributed to changes in opinion over all.”
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