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Americans Increasingly Certain About Climate Change, But Uncertain It Will Be Stopped

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Americans Increasingly Certain About Climate Change, But Uncertain It Will Be Stopped

Americans are more certain climate change is happening than at any point since 2008, but they are pessimistic that anything will be done about it.


These are among the findings of the March Climate Change in the American Mind survey, conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication (4C), the results of which were published by YPCCC Tuesday.

The survey drew on interviews with 1,278 U.S. adults from March 7 to 24 and had a 95 percent confidence level.

The survey found that 49 percent of Americans are "very" or "extremely" sure that global warming is happening, while only seven percent are equally sure that it is not taking place. This is the greatest amount of certainty Americans have expressed that global warming is taking place since 2008.

Overall, 70 percent of Americans believe global warming is happening, and 58 percent believe it is caused by human actions, the survey found.

Americans are also increasingly concerned about global warming: 62 percent of Americans are "somewhat" or "very" worried about it, and the percentage that is "very worried"—21 percent—has more than doubled since its 2011 nine-percent low point.

Further, Americans associate global warming with changes taking place currently. Sixty-one percent think that global warming is impacting U.S. weather, and a majority also expressed concerns about specific extreme weather events happening in their local area. Sixty-four percent are "a little" to "very" worried about extreme heat, 61 percent are worried about drought, 60 percent about flooding and 52 percent about water shortages.

A smaller but sizeable number—39 percent—said they were being harmed "right now" because of global warming, and 42 percent thought they would be harmed in the future. However, 71 percent thought that future generations and plants and animal species would be harmed, and 63 percent expected harm to come to the world's poor.

The results compliment other recent surveys of U.S. climate opinion. A March Gallup poll found that 45 percent of Americans thought that global warming would pose a serious threat during their lives, the highest percentage in the question's 21-year history.

Other recent polls have shown that Americans differ from the Trump administration not only in taking climate change seriously, but also in believing the government should do something about it. A 2017 University of Michigan survey found that 52 percent of Americans thought the federal government had "a great deal of responsibility" to act.

But, in the most recent YPCCC and 4C survey, Americans expressed a great deal of pessimism that any such action would take place. A majority of Americans think that humans could reduce global warming, but only 6 percent think that we will. Forty-nine percent are unsure, and 22 percent said that we won't because "people aren't willing to change their behavior."

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