Americans understanding of global warming reality is increasing. But they still don’t rate it as a major issue when put in the context of other issues.
The Center for Climate Change Communications has just released its latest report – Climate Change in the American Mind: Beliefs & Attitudes. It finds that US public understanding of global warming has increased.
Americans who think global warming is happening now outnumber those who think it is not happening by a ratio of nearly 5 to 1 (74% versus 15%).
A majority of Americans (61%) understand that global warming is mostly human caused. By contrast, 28% think it is caused mostly by natural changes in the environment.
About two-thirds of Americans (66%) say they are at least “somewhat worried” about global warming. This includes 30% of Americans who say they are “very worried.”
About one in ten Americans (11%) have considered moving to avoid the impacts of global warming.
A majority of Americans (62%) say they feel a personal sense of responsibility to help reduce global warming; (57%) disagree with the statement “the actions of a single individual won’t make any difference in global warming,” while 42% agree.
A majority of Americans (65%) think global warming is affecting weather in the United States, including 33% who think weather is being affected “a lot” and (56%) think extreme weather poses either a “high” (18%) or “moderate” (38%) risk to their community over the next 10 years.
Majorities of Americans think global warming is affecting many environmental problems in the United States including extreme heat (75%), rising sea levels (72%), wildfires (71%), droughts (71%), flooding (69%), water shortages (69%), hurricanes (68%), air pollution (67%), tornados (66%), reduced snow pack (62%), agricultural pests and diseases (61%), water pollution (60%), and electricity power outages (58%).
Meanwhile a recent April 2023 Gallup Poll of what Americans see as the most important problem facing the country provides a slightly different perspective.
While the Center for Climate Change Communications long-running attitudinal research focussed on climate change awareness the Gallup Poll took a different approach by situating that within broader US public attitudes about a range of issues.
Gallup found that the percentage of Americans mentioning economic issues as the most important problem facing the country was at 29% citing fuel prices, taxes, the economy in general and the high cost of inflation. Nobody mentioned corporate corruption although 2% nominated the gap between rich and poor.
The top non-economic problems were the government, poor leaders, immigration, gun control, race relations and racism, crime and violence and unifying the country.
Only 2% nominated abortion and drugs while shootings, the national security situation with China, welfare, Russia all scored just one per cent.
Environment, pollution and climate change also polled just one percent. Fear of war scored less than 0.5% – amazing given how often the US goes to war although perhaps Americans think war is just something that happens, far far away and which they only see on TV.
They are less sanguine about the wars on their own streets with guns, gun control and crime and violence rating 7% and 6% respectively.
On the other hand there is more good news for the climate change debate the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a Shell ad campaign promoting its green initiatives for not telling consumers that most of its business is based on environmentally damaging fuels.
The Guardian reported (7 June 2023) that Shell was expanding its gas business by 20% while running a TV, poster and YouTube campaign pushing renewable energy electricity, wind and car charging point initiatives.
The ASA, The Guardian says, has also banned ad campaigns from Etihad Airways and Lufthansa around their ‘sustainable aviation campaigns.
One can only wonder what the outcome would be if we also had tougher truth in political advertising requirements.