Friday, December 9, 2011

Via ClimateProgress: Poll: Majority of Americans Understand Global Warming Worsens Extreme Weather and Want Nation to Act

Yale released the above chart in November.  Now they have released “the second and third reports from our latest national survey on Americans’ climate change and energy beliefs, attitudes, policy support, and behavior.”  Key findings:
  • Public understanding that global warming is happening stayed at 63 percent, while belief that it is caused mostly by human activities increased three points since May 2011, to 50 percent.
  • A majority of Americans (57%) now disagree with the statement, “With the economy in such bad shape, the US can’t afford to reduce global warming” – an 8 point increase in disagreement since May 2011.
  • 65 percent said that global warming is affecting weather in the United States.
  • 58 percent of Americans said that the record heat waves last summer strengthened their belief that global warming is occurring, up 4 points since May 2011.
  • 38 percent of Americans said they have personally experienced the effects of global warming, up 4 points since May of 2011.
  • Americans trust “climate scientists” (74%) as a source of information about global warming more than any other group, including “other kinds of scientists” (65%) and the mainstream media (38%)
This matches September polling by ecoAmerica, which found:
  • 69% of Americans Know “Weather Conditions (Such as Heat Waves and Droughts) Are Made Worse by Climate Change
  • 57% of Americans understand “If we don’t do something about climate change now, we can end up having our farmland turned to desert.”
That public understanding certainly matches the science:
We know from a major 2011 study that “human-induced increases in greenhouse gases have contributed to the observed intensification of heavy precipitation events found over approximately two-thirds of data-covered parts of Northern Hemisphere land areas.”

As predicted, the warming has put more water vapor in the air, making deluges more intense.  Climatologist Kevin Trenberth explains:

There is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms,
Obviously, since it’s getting hotter, we’re worsening extreme heat waves — both in intensity and duration and scale (the area the heat wave covers).  For the same reason, we know humans are making droughts worse — in intensity, duration, and scale.

Actual observations reveal that since 1950, the global percentage of dry areas has increased by about 1.74% of global land area per decade (see here).  Heck, our best scientists are already using global warming to help them predict dangerous extreme weather (see “USGS Expert Explains How Global Warming Likely Contributes to East Africa’s Brutal Drought“).

The reinsurance industry understands all this (see Munich Re: “The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change”).

The American public can’t miss the extreme weather because it is everywhere now and increasingly off the charts — see NOAA Chief: U.S. Record of a Dozen Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters in One Year Is “a Harbinger of Things to Come.”

Of course, what’s to come is the real issue, since we still have control over that.  We’re facing 5 to 10 times the warming this century that we’ve seen in the past half century.

The time to act was a long time ago, but further delay is suicidal  — see IEA’s Bombshell Warning: We’re Headed Toward 11°F Global Warming and “Delaying Action Is a False Economy”

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