Horowitz: More Americans Becoming Concerned About Climate Change

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


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The impacts of a series of worrisome scientific reports, the continuation of record warm temperatures and stepped-up extreme weather are setting in with the American public, fueling an increasing acceptance of the reality of climate change and support for government action to combat it.  More than 7-in-10 Americans now think that global warming is happening and more than 6-in-10 Americans think it is mostly "human caused", a marked increase of acceptance that the problem is real and that it is a result of human activity, according to a recent Climate Change and the American Mind Poll, conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change.

A recent Monmouth University Poll yielded similar results, recording stepped up support for action on climate change as well as recognition and concern about the problem. Nearly 7-in-10 Americans now support the government doing more to reduce the type of activities that cause climate change and sea level rise, while just a little over 2-in-10 oppose it, says the Monmouth Poll.   This includes a narrow majority of Republicans, the sub-set of the electorate most skeptical of the existence of climate change. 

“After a year of devastating extreme events, dire scientific reports, and growing media coverage of climate change, a record number of Americans are convinced that human-caused global warming is happening, are increasingly worried, and say the issue is personally important to them,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, PhD. of Yale University.

“Global warming used to be viewed as a problem distant in time and space,” said Ed Maibach, Ph.D. of George Mason University. “But Americans increasingly understand that global warming is here and now and are growing concerned about the threat to themselves, their communities, and the nation.”  Nearly half of Americans now say they have personally experienced the effects of global warming-- an increase of 15 percentage points in just under 4 years, according to the Climate Change and the American Mind Poll.

“Scientists have long agreed that climate change is a very serious problem, and it is past time to take action. Now it is clear that a majority of Americans regardless of political party agree,” added Tony MacDonald, director of the Urban Coast Institute at Monmouth University.

While Americans still rank addressing climate change as a low priority relative to issues such as health care, the economy, and immigration, the marked growth of support for taking action is creating more fertile political soil for the steps that we must take if we are to limit global temperature increases and avoid the worst consequences of global warming.

As John Adams famously said, "facts are stubborn things.”  The persistent communication of scientific facts combined with people’s capacity to see the changes underway in our climate with their own eyes is beginning to push back the threadbare arguments of the “climate change minimization and denial crowd.”

These polls are encouraging signs that over time we can muster the political support to do what we must do to speed our transition to non-carbon sources of energy and stepped up energy conservation, sufficiently reducing the production of greenhouse gases.  Continued aggressive, fact-based public education and broad-based grassroots political activity remain the key.

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Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.


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