Americans Are Believers (of Climate Change)

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According to a new study from Duke University, the number of Americans who believe in climate change is on a rise and so is the support for new regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

More specifically, the survey revealed that 50 percent of Americans “are convinced the climate is changing” and another 34 percent believe it “is probably changing.” The findings of this study are significant, since the researchers claim that this is the highest quantitative findings of belief in climate change since 2007. Just last year a Gallup poll, released in March 2012, revealed that 30 percent of Americans worried about global warming “a great deal” and another 25 percent worried about it a “fair amount.”

What’s more, the Duke study found that 54 percent of Americans felt that climate change was caused by man-made causes and 64 percent felt that new regulations need to be implemented to control the greenhouse gas emissions. that said, when it came to taxes on carbon emissions, a mere 29 percent vocalized support.

“Whether in response to extreme weather events like mega-storm Sandy or the improved economy, public opinion has clearly rebounded from its low point of a couple years ago,” said one of the study’s researchers, Frederick Mayer, associate professor of public policy and political science at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, according to The Huffington Post. In a statement, Mayer stated, “Although there appears to be little prospect for tax or cap-and-trade legislation in the current Congress, there is a clear opening for stronger regulation and investments in clean energy.”

“Support rises when asked about more familiar concepts of regulation, such as performance standards, but respondents appear to have little or no knowledge about the possible use of a cap-and-trade system to address climate change,” said Sarah Adair, the co-author of the study and an associate in research at Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

“Democrats remain substantially more likely than Republicans to think that climate change is occurring,” the authors wrote about the survey. “Fully 70 percent of Democrats are convinced, compared to only 27 percent of Republicans. However, an additional 43 percent of Republicans in our sample say that it is probably occurring, although they’d like more evidence.” Independent voters polled in a manner that “closely mirrored the overall population.”

A few months back, we shared a study from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communications, which found that three-fourths of Americans now believe that climate change is responsible for the bipolar weather. The Yale study highlighted a few key points about their poll:

  • A large and growing majority of Americans say “global warming is affecting weather in the United States” (74%, up 5 points since our last national survey in March 2012).
  • Asked about six recent extreme weather events in the United States, including record high summer temperatures, the Midwest drought, and the unusually warm winter and spring of 2011-12, majorities say global warming made each event “worse.”
  • Americans were most likely to connect global warming to the record high temperatures in the summer of 2012 (73%).
  • Americans increasingly say weather in the U.S. has been getting worse over the past several years (61%, up 9 percentage points since March).A majority of Americans (58%) say that heat waves have become more common in their local area over the past few decades, up 5 points since March, with especially large increases in the Northeast and Midwest (+12 and +15 points, respectively).
  • More than twice as many Midwesterners say they personally experienced an extreme heat wave (83%, up 48 points since March) or drought (81%, up 55 points) in the past year.
  • One in five Americans (20%) says they suffered harm to their health, property, and/or finances from an extreme heat wave in the past year, a 6-point increase since March. In addition, 15 percent say they suffered harm from a drought in the past year, up 4 points.
  • Susmita Baral

    Susmita is a writer and editor in the Greater New York City area. In her spare time, Susmita enjoys cooking, traveling, dappling in photography, art history and interior design, and moonlighting as a therapist for her loved ones.

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