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Yale Poll: Climate Change ‘Personally Important’ to Record Number of Americans

Climate
Florida Fish and Wildlife officers responding after Hurricane Michael on Oct. 17, 2018. Gus Holzer / Florida Fish and Wildlife

A record number of Americans now say that global warming is "personally important" to them, according to the latest Climate Change and the American Mind survey released Tuesday by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication. That number has jumped to 72 percent, up nine percentage points since the survey was last conducted in March of 2018.


"People are beginning to understand that climate change is here in the United States, here in my state, in my community, affecting the people and places I care about, and now," YPCCC Director Dr. Leiserowitz told The New York Times. "This isn't happening in 50 years, 100 years from now."

The survey, which was conducted between November 28 and December 11 of 2018 to 1,114 adults, also found that the highest number of Americans yet accept that global warming is happening. At 73 percent, that number has risen three points since last March and 10 points since 2015.

Other key results indicate a shift in awareness:

  • Sixty-two percent of Americans think global warming is caused by humans.
  • Only 23 percent, a record low, say it is due to natural causes.
  • Sixty-nine percent of Americans are worried about global warming, a seven point jump since last March.
  • Forty-nine percent think they will be personally harmed by global warming, seven percent more than last March.
  • Forty-eight percent say people are being harmed by global warming in the U.S. right now, a nine percent increase since last March.
  • Fifty-four percent say they have personally experienced the impacts of global warming, five percent more than last March.

"I've never seen jumps in some of the key indicators like this," Leiserowitz told The New York Times.

Leiserowitz told The New York Times he thought the spike in climate awareness was due to several factors.

  1. An uptick in extreme weather events connected to climate change: The survey found that 65 percent of Americans think that global warming is already impacting whether in the U.S.. Fifty percent thought it made 2018's wildfires worse, and 49 percent said the same about Hurricanes Michael and Florence.
  2. The 2018 release of two major reports: Both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warning we have 12 years to radically reduce the use of fossil fuels in order to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels and volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, which laid out dire climate consequences for the U.S., drove up the sense of urgency surrounding the issue.
  3. President Donald Trump's climate denialism: Paradoxically, Trump's repeated denial of climate change is feeding Americans' increased awareness of and belief in the issue, Leiserowitz told The New York Times. This is partly because his highly-reported statements focus more media attention on the issue generally, but it is also because Trump is so divisive that when he holds a view, "he tends to drive a majority of the country in the opposite direction," Leiserowitz said.

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