The current leadership in the United States — the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House — have a hostile relationship with climate change science. Not only has current President Donald Trump suggested that the entire concept is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, but the Legislative Branch of government is populated with a majority of representatives who do not accept the scientific consensus regarding climate change. Not only are these views dangerous for the future of the planet, but a new poll shows that these views are entirely out of sync with a majority of the U.S. population.
According to a new report by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, a majority of people in the United States believe that climate change is real and that it is mostly the result of human activities. The survey shows that 58% of the public now accepts that climate change is mostly caused by human activity, which is the highest level ever recorded of public acceptance of the human role in climate change since Yale began conducting these studies in 2008.
Here are a few key findings from the new report:
Over half of Americans (58%) understand that global warming is mostly human caused, the highest level since our surveys began in November 2008. By contrast, three in ten (30%) say it is due mostly to natural changes in the environment – the lowest level recorded since 2008.
Only about one in eight Americans (13%) understand that nearly all climate scientists (more than 90%) are convinced that human-caused global warming is happening.
Over half of Americans (57%) say they are at least “somewhat worried” about global warming. About one in six (17%) are “very worried” about it.
About one in three Americans (35%) think people in the U.S. are being harmed by global warming “right now.”
By a large margin, Americans say that schools should teach children about the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to global warming (78% agree vs. 21% who disagree).
One particularly intriguing finding from the Yale report is that the majority believe that the threats of climate change are things that will either happen in the distant future, or that they will not happen to the individuals polled or their families:
Most Americans think global warming is a relatively distant threat – they are most likely to think that it will harm future generations of people (71%), plant and animal species (71%), the Earth (70%), people in developing countries (62%), or the world’s poor (62%). They are less likely to think it will harm people in the U.S. (58%), their own grandchildren (56%) or children (50%), people in their community (48%), their family (47%), themselves (43%), or members of their extended family living outside the U.S. (41%).
The fact that most Americans either believe the threat is something that will happen in the distant future or that it won’t happen to them is one possible reason so many people are willing to vote for politicians who either outright deny the existence of climate change or who refuse to act on the issue. Currently, a majority of members of both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate fall into one of those categories, with 53 out of 100 U.S. Senators counted as climate change deniers and 232 out of 435 House members listed as deniers.
But the truth is that climate change is not a far-off threat for Americans. Rising sea levels are already threatening drinking water in South Florida, as salt water is seeping into aquifers. Elsewhere, rising temperatures, rising sea levels, changes in precipitation patterns, and extreme weather events that have been linked to climate change are wreaking havoc. So one of the main focuses of climate science advocates needs to be educating people about the timeline so they stop viewing climate change as a problem that can be put on the back burner. It is happening right now.
Nevertheless, the fact that a majority of U.S. citizens understand the realities of climate change while our elected leaders refuse to accept the science indicates that they have become too far removed from the values, desires, and concerns of their constituents. That's likely due in part to the massive amounts of money that fossil fuel companies spend on lobbying and direct campaign contributions which totaled $120+ million and $103 million in 2016, respectively.
Image via Geralt at Pixabay.