A new survey on climate change, from Yale and George Mason Universities, shows that concern is rising among Americans, while many are still misinformed about the nature and cause of climate change.
Only 54 percent of Americans believe that the changes to the planet’s climate are primarily caused by humans, and 33 percent incorrectly attribute warming to natural processes, according to the new survey, detailed by the Guardian on Monday.
At the same time, 22 percent of respondents are now very concerned about climate change, a record number twice the level of a similar survey in March of 2015. Another 63 percent of Americans were found to be “somewhat” worried about climate change. Another aspect of the survey gives a clue to the uptick in concern; 64 percent of respondents believed that global warming is having direct effects on the weather, with 33 percent considering it to be a large influence.
Many respondents described seeing a connection between specific instances of extreme weather and the broader pattern of climate change. When asked which recent events were exacerbated by climate change, 28 percent of respondents said that hurricanes such as Harvey, Irma, and Maria were made “a lot worse.” Another 17 percent believed they were moderately worsened, and 9 percent believe they were made slightly worse, or weren’t sure.
When it comes to the record-breaking wildfires in the western US, 25 percent believe climate change worsened the fires a lot, 16 percent believed they were made moderately worse, and 11 percent believe they were worsened slightly, or weren’t sure.
The survey turned up similar figures for recent heat waves in California and Arizona.
Scientists have largely begun to support this notion in recent years, as the budding field of “attribution science” improves its ability to definitively link specific events to climate change.
One study by Kerry Emanuel of MIT found that the heavy rainfall during Hurricane Harvey, which was the highest on record for any hurricane in the US, is now six times more likely due to the rising temperatures associated with climate change.
42 percent of respondents believed Americans are currently being harmed by climate change, 10 percent more than in the March 2015 survey, and the highest since such surveys began in 2008.
Conversely, only 15 percent of respondents were aware that the percentage of experts who are certain climate change is caused by humans is over 90 percent.