Survey: Sharp Decline in Percentage of Americans Who See Global Warming as a Very Serious Problem
25 October 2009
There has been a sharp decline over the past year in the percentage of Americans who say there is solid evidence that global temperatures are rising—from 71% in 2008 to 57% in 2009. And fewer also see global warming as a very serious problem—35% today, down from 44% in April 2008, according to the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted 30 Sept. to 4 Oct.
|The percentage that sees evidence of global warming is declining. Source: Pew. Click to enlarge.|
The survey, conducted among 1,500 adults reached on cell phones and landlines, found that 57% think there is solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades. In April 2008, 71% said there was solid evidence of rising global temperatures.
Over the same period, there has been a comparable decline in the proportion of Americans who say global temperatures are rising as a result of human activity, such as burning fossil fuels. Just 36% say that currently, down from 47% last year.
The decline in the belief in solid evidence of global warming has come across the political spectrum, but has been particularly pronounced among independents. Just 53% of independents now see solid evidence of global warming, compared with 75% who did so in April 2008. Republicans, who already were highly skeptical of the evidence of global warming, have become even more so: just 35% of Republicans now see solid evidence of rising global temperatures, down from 49% in 2008 and 62% in 2007. Fewer Democrats also express this view—75% today compared with 83% last year.
Despite the growing public skepticism about global warming, the survey finds more support than opposition for a policy to set limits on carbon emissions. Half of Americans favor setting limits on carbon emissions and making companies pay for their emissions, even if this may lead to higher energy prices; 39% oppose imposing limits on carbon emissions under these circumstances.
This issue has not registered widely with the public. Just 14% say they have heard a lot about the cap-and-trade policy that would set carbon dioxide emissions limits; another 30% say they have heard a little about the policy, while a majority (55%) has heard nothing at all.
The small minority that has heard a lot about the issue opposes carbon emissions limits by two-to-one (64% to 32%). More Republicans (20%) and independents (17%) than Democrats (8%) have heard a lot about cap and trade. Among the much larger group that has head little or nothing about the issue, most support it (50% little, 58% nothing).
With less than two months before the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, a majority (56%) of Americans think the United States should join other countries in setting standards to address global climate change while 32% say that the United States should set its own standards.
Whether you believe in global warming or not, using fossil fuels more wisely is just good policy. If we reduce CO2 emissions, that is a bonus, but the other benefits make it worth doing by themselves.
Posted by: SJC | 25 October 2009 at 07:05 AM
I agree, SJC. Although I believe that global warming is occurring and that we should do something about it, I also believe the point is moot. I can think of so many other reasons why we should stop burning coal and liquid petroleum fuels that the debate over global warming, to me, is completely unnecessary.
Posted by: Peter9909 | 25 October 2009 at 09:17 AM
Right. Once we have put the battle over demonizing C02 behind us - there is a clear agreement to move forward on transitioning out of fossil fuels.
It is already happening. But the reason to keep the pressure on is to point out the huge financial benefit of quitting foreign oil. T Boone made this the center of his project. There are plenty of other reasons.
Now, to convert the huge PR machine from demonizing C02 to extolling the benefits of alternatives. It should be relatively painless if the same forces behind the AGW argument get behind the "Energy Independence" campaign. The transition to sustainability is still the goal - but disaster, catastrophe and alarmism is NOT the path.
Let's make it happen, together.
Posted by: sulleny | 25 October 2009 at 03:05 PM
Now, to convert the huge PR machine from demonizing C02 to extolling the benefits of alternatives.
Good luck with that one. You're asking people to give up their religion, as well as their income and retirement plans, so it won't happen without a lot of kicking and screaming.
Posted by: The Goracle | 25 October 2009 at 03:10 PM
Why this high degree of ambivalence and regression? Could it be that the majority is being willfully misinformed or just not sufficiently informed?
The same survey in Norway, Sweden, England, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Switzerland, and many other well educated countries would certainly give very different results.
Is it possible, with enough resources, to indoctrinate the majority of an industrial democratic nation of 300+ million people?
Posted by: HarveyD | 25 October 2009 at 03:24 PM
Our entire culture is based upon the idea that we can do whatever we want to this planet. And we assume that it will continue to absorb anything we can throw at it.
It will take a new generation to accept the fact that the old culture is a dead end.
But rather than bother arguing about that I should take SJC's advice and only concentrate upon the benefits of switching off of fossil fuels (especially imported).
Posted by: danm | 25 October 2009 at 04:00 PM
Lobby groups have been hammering away on infusing doubt into the public perception. The economic crisis has taken climate change off of the front page. On top of that, the US has been cooler than normal, even though the oceans saw record warmth this summer.
Posted by: Will S | 25 October 2009 at 05:03 PM
Goracle - I hope you're wrong. Of course demonizing something is a lot more fun for the PR crowd than extolling something. But the hardcore naysayers can keep beating on oil companies and that's just fine.
And super hard core catastrophizers can decry the holocaust to come from oil wars, oil spills, "peak oil" oil embargoes, oil riots, etc. etc. Disaster is a staple substance to a certain breed of people.
Posted by: sulleny | 26 October 2009 at 04:26 PM
Personally I think America's addiction to oil is disgusting. I think everyone should go to "the list" (http://www.militarycity.com/valor/honor.html) on a regular basis to remember those who've made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, to a large extent because of this addiction - and the list contains just Americans...there are obviously many others. It is critical that we eliminate our dependence on foreign oil & the influences of these terrorist regimes. We aren't going to change Islam and the minds of people that think the US is the Great Satan - but hopefully someday we'll be off their oil for good.
Posted by: ejj | 26 October 2009 at 07:17 PM
You have to admit bush was totaly right on that no matter what you believe simply kicking the habit will help with everything else. And EVERYONE can agree on kicking the oil habit as long as we handle all the important bits long and short range transport wise.
Posted by: wintermane2000 | 27 October 2009 at 07:51 AM
Great forward thinking but aquired addictions are difficult to knock off.
There are a few dozens other acquired addicitons that could and should be addressed:
1- Tobacco smoking (*)
2- Weed smoking
3- Hard drugs
4- Sweet soft drinks
5- Over-prescribed drugs.
6- Reckless driving
7- Over eating
8- Extreme sports
9- Odd ugly clothing
11- Love of Guns
12- Killing each other
13- Stealing $$$$B
14- Stealing time/hours
15- Bad workmanship
17- Many others
(*) partially addressed.
It seems that we acquired more new addictions than we weaned off old ones.
Posted by: HarveyD | 27 October 2009 at 09:16 AM
Well at least killing each other and love of guns tends to help mitigate the population problem a tad.
Posted by: wintermane2000 | 27 October 2009 at 10:26 AM
And widespread acceptance of religious addictions also help cull the herd.
Posted by: Reel$$ | 27 October 2009 at 01:18 PM
Perhaps a global population control organization would be better? Start with the countries, and regions within countries where people think they are going to be in eternal orgies if they suicide bomb others.
Posted by: ejj | 28 October 2009 at 06:20 AM