ANALYSIS: How Americans View Climate Change

Dispatch from SSC Intern Nick Foster

Amongst the current political debate in the Senate over how to tackle climate change, a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press indicates that pervious perceptions about global warming are beginning to change within the American population.   

The study shows that 57% of those surveyed believe that there is solid evidence demonstrating that the earth is warming, a 14% decrease compared to the same study conducted in April of 2008.  The belief in climate change due to anthropogenic activities has also declined to 36%, down 11% from last year’s study.   

The rise in skepticism over global warming spanned across all political-party affiliations with a reduction of 8% seen in Democrats, 14% by Republicans, and a substantial 22% by Independents.  Even with comparisons between geographic regions of the U.S., the data suggests that more are beginning to question the extent of man-made global warming and its potential underlying risks. 

Possibly even more astonishing is the another study published by the Pew Research Center claiming only 23% of the public identify that cap-and-trade talks are about energy and the environment, while another 29% believe it pertains to healthcare, unemployment, or banking reform.  The remaining 48% percent surveyed were unsure. 

What implications do these studies hold for potential climate change legislation?  The Senators who are openly against any form of cap-and-trade agreement may wish to utilize these statistics to demonstrate the shift in public opinion.  In fact, the survey demonstrated that 39% of those surveyed oppose any legislation that regulates the carbon-emissions businesses.  With these new pieces of data, it will be interesting to see the direction that talks in Washington take in the near future and whether or not the U.S. has a national climate policy to bring to the table at Copenhagen in early December.   

Find out more statistics pertaining to climate change here.