Back in Black: Concern Over Global Warming Rising Again

from Wildlife Promise

A new poll released by Gallup today shows positive signs that Americans are moving back into the black when it comes to facing global climate change.  Before you get lost in the lyrics to the classic AC/DC song or become excited about the similar idiom evoking bottom lines and turning profits, this return to black isn’t all rock-and-roll and money making.

According to the poll, skepticism that has plagued many climate change champions in recent years has given way to greater acceptance and growing concern amongst the general population.  The resurgence comes at a pivotal time in the battle to solve the climate crisis and prevent further, perhaps irrevocable damage to the Earth and its ecosystems and wildlife.

Will voters rise up en masse to tell politicians to say no to dirty deeds like tar sands and coal exports?

Digging Into the Numbers

  • Gallup reports that an average of 58%of Americans say they are worried a “great deal” or “fair amount” about global warming.  While below the apex of 72% reported between 1999 and 2001, it’s up sharply in the last two years from the 51% recorded in 2011.
  • 78% of Americans professed some level of concern about global warming with 33% having said they worried “a great deal,” 25% “a fair amount,” and 20% “only a little.”
  • 54% of Americans believe that global warming has already started to alter the climate which is also an upward trend after a recent dip in belief over the last several years.    At the same time, Americans are also reporting higher confidence in media coverage of global warming and acknowledging a broadening consensus amongst scientists.
  • Up 10% over the past four years, 62% of Americans believe that scientists are in agreement that global warming is in fact occurring; this is the closest public opinion has gotten to the peak of 65% observed between 2006 and 2008.
  • The new poll also shows human accountability trending back upward as 57% of Americans say they believe global warming to be the result of human activities.  This represents a 7% rebound since 2010 in which 50% of the population felt similar responsibility.

To round out the current picture of the American public’s opinion on climate change is the question of whether Americans feel as if all this has any effect on their lives. How immediate do average Americans feel the threat actually is to themselves and their families?  Or to stick with the AC/DC theme, do voters think we’re on a “highway to hell?”

Not Enough Concern

The results to this question are more disparaging to the climate change debate as the upward trend in this case means more people feel climate change isn’t a serious threat to them in their lifetime.  Those who believe otherwise make up a mere 34%, which matches the historical average.  In other words, there has been no change in this line of thinking since these polls began in 1998.

So with all this progress and getting back in black, we’re not there yet.  Moving forward, the challenge that remains in keeping things on a positive upswing in the mind of the public and the health of the planet, is getting public opinion in concert with real-time events like the recent Superstorm Sandy or the ongoing and very immediate changes happening right now to the climate and the balance of its ecosystems and the wildlife they sustain.

If you’re feeling thunderstruck that anyone could doubt the connection between man-made carbon pollution and climate change, it’s in your hands to help spread the scientific truth.  If someone mentions weird weather–from droughts to heat waves to wildfires–mention global warming and that you hope our leaders act to cut carbon pollution.  You don’t need to know every single scientific fact–send them to nwf.org/ExtremeWeather and climate scientist Dr. Amanda Staudt will do the heavy lifting for you.

So whatever motivates you best—whether it’s protecting wildlife, working to save the planet, positive cash flow, or simply rockin’ out—keep on keepin’ on, because our work isn’t done here and good work never is.

The Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing historic limits on the industrial carbon pollution that’s fueling climate change.  Tell President Obama:  For those about to act, we salute you.