Tag Archives: gallup poll

People finally concerned about climate change

Though not enough. And for the wrong reasons. But this is still good news.

Somewhere around 1990, but you could justify an earlier date if you like, science knew enough about global warming, the increase in the planet’s surface temperatures caused by human release of greenhouse gas pollution and other human effects, to have initiated meaningful action to shift our energy supply away from fossil fuels. We didn’t know exactly what would happen, but we knew stuff would happen. How long has it taken for this science to turn into effective policy to address global warming? We don’t know, because, while some things are happening now, not enough. We are not doing what we need to be doing decades after we should have started doing it.

The main reason we have avoided effective action is because of bought and paid for denial of the science supported mainly by the industries that stand to lose the most if we eliminated our reliance on fossil fuels. These industries could have done something very different. They could have started to develop and deploy clean energy solutions, and dissolve their fossil fuel based assets. But they didn’t. So we are in a bad situation right now.

Meanwhile this systematic and effective denial of science has kept public opinion confused, with many people failing to accept the reality of global warming. But now, we are seeing a major shift away from denial and towards accepting, if not fully understanding, the science, and getting on board with a shift in policy.

That is a good thing, though it is slightly annoying that a) recent lackluster opinion has resulted from the incorrect perception that an expectable slowdown in warming means global warming isn’t real (it doesn’t actually mean that) followed by b) an uptick in global warming’s effects caused by short term exacerbation from the current, now winding down, El Nino.

The last time there was a big uptick in US public concern about global warming was in association with the most recent major El Nino, and now, with this new major El Nino, concern has risen again, according to Gallup.

Hunter Cutting has a piece on Medium exploring this in more detail. He asks if the current uptick in concern is a tipping point in public opinion.

He notes,

For the past year there have been hints of a significant shift in the U.S. political landscape on the question of climate change. Now, new polling numbers just out from Gallup confirm not just a shift, but a seismic shift, in public opinion on the question. The shift is so dramatic that we may have passed a key tipping point in the politics of climate change.

But he further notes,

The political landscape must change still further before federal action can take the next big steps forward on climate change. Despite increasing agreement that climate change is a problem, most still donā€™t see the problem as a pressing concern calling for immediate action. But U.S. politics are notoriously non-linear. Political change often happens fast once the ball gets rolling.

If a Republican is elected to the White House, and both houses of Congress stay Republican, expect anywhere from a half decade to a decade of delay in acting meaningfully on clean energy policy. Yes, the markets are already heading that way, but don’t underestimate the ability of a nefarious petroleum fueled anti-change government to slow that down or even reverse it. This is why this November is the most important election in American, and global, history. Please don’t blow it.

Global Warming Skepticism In Decline

There is a new Gallup poll that together with earlier data from Gallup provides some interesting information about attitudes in the US about global warming.

Earlier polls have shown increase and decrease in concern about global warming, and changes in what people think of news about climate change and the severity of the problem. Recently, there has been a shift towards greater concern which follows a low point, which, in turn, follows a period of global concern.

One question involves reading off a list of specific concerns related to global warming and asking participants to rank their concern over that issue, and then averaging the responses. This produces a graph of percentage of “worry” at higher levels that looks like this:

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According to Gallup, the breakdown underlying this graph indicates that

33% of Americans worry about global warming “a great deal,” 25% worry “a fair amount,” 20% “only a little,” and 23% “not at all.”

The take home message here is that 58% of Americans see global warming as serous while a mere 23% see it as not an issue at all. Denialists together with those who just don’t know are in a small minority. Also, 54% of Americans acknowledge that the effects of global warming have already started.

Even though a mere 23% of respondents don’t seem to think global warming is a problem, even fewer, 15%, think that it “will never happen” while 81% think that the effects of global warming have already begun or are to be expected in the future. Here’s the graph of those responses over time:

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Related to all this is the way Americans view news stories about global warming. A plurality, but a declining number, tend to see news stories as exaggerated, but the combined number who see stories as either correct or underestimated is over half. Notably, those who see stories of global warming in the news as underestimates of the severity of the problem have been increasing in number in recent years.

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Prior to a recent nadir in about 2010, over 60% of Americans recognized that there is a scientific consensus that Global warming is occurring. This number has recently risen from that recent dip to 52% nearly to it’s high point of 65% and is now as 62% and perhaps rising. Only a tiny percent responded that they think most scientists do not believe global warming is occurring.

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The number of people who understand that humans are the primary cause of global warming also underwent a dip aroun 2010, and that number is rising again to pre 2010 levels.

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And finally, a large percentage of Americans recognize that the effects of global warming will have a negative impact on their lives:

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Gallup is expected to release information on attitudes about global warming based on political orientation. The present study can be found here.

Meanwhile, we should note that the scientific consensus is much stronger than the public consensus. It looks more like this (from here):

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Darwin’s Birthday Gallup Poll on “Belief in Evolution”

The Gallup Poll is not surprising in any of its results but it is, of course, alarming and interesting. Here’s a summary.

On the eve of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, a new Gallup Poll shows that only 39% of Americans say they “believe in the theory of evolution,” while a quarter say they do not believe in the theory, and another 36% don’t have an opinion either way. These attitudes are strongly related to education and, to an even greater degree, religiosity.

The data:
Believe in evolution 39%
Do not believe in evolutoin 25%
No opinon either way 36%

Not surprisingly, education level has a strong effect on tresponse. Have a look at this graph:

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The good news:

Younger Americans, who are less likely to be religious than those who are older, are also more likely to believe in evolution. Still, just about half of those aged 18 to 34 say they believe in evolution.

Well, not great news, but good news.

In answer to the question “Can you tell me with which scientific theory Charles Darwin is associated?” only a little over half knew. That was asked before all the other questions. And, knowing or not knowing the answer to that question went way way up with higher education levels, not surprisingly.

The poll reporters conclude:

As Darwin is being lauded as one of the most important scientists in history on the 200th anniversary of his birth (on Feb. 12, 1809), it is perhaps dismaying to scientists who study and respect his work to see that well less than half of Americans today say they believe in the theory of evolution, and that just 55% can associate the man with his theory.

… Americans who have lower levels of formal education are significantly less likely than others to be able to identity Darwin with his theory, and to have an opinion on it either way. Still, the evidence is clear that even to this day, Americans’ religious beliefs are a significant predictor of their attitudes toward Darwin’s theory….

h/t: Stranger Fruit