Seven Out of Ten Americans Agree: Climate Change Leads to Extreme Weather

NOAA/Public Domain

This winter's record-breaking heat, the sweltering droughts of 2011, last year's super-hot summer—these aren't anomalies.

They're the kind of weird weather events that are made worse by climate change, the phenomena scientists have long been warning us that we'll be seeing much more of in a warming world. This is exactly the sort of thing we should expect as the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continues to grow.

To climate watchers, none of this will be news. But this might be: the American public, long considered overwhelmingly apathetic about global warming, is beginning to "connect the dots." A new Yale study shows that a strong majority of Americans are now likely to acknowledge that the unusual weather events were influenced by climate change. Among the study's highlights:

A large majority of Americans believe that global warming made several high profile extreme weather events worse, including the unusually warm winter of December 2011 and January 2012 (72%), record high summer temperatures in the U.S. in 2011 (70%), the drought in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 (69%), record snowfall in the U.S. in 2010 and 2011 (61%), the Mississippi River floods in the spring of 2011 (63%), and Hurricane Irene (59%)
If this were a commercial for toothpaste, those stats might translate into "7 out of 10 Americans agree ..."

And that comes on the heels of other polls that show Americans are again growing increasingly worried about global warming in general, after concern dropped off in previous years.

Here's the New York Times:

...the polls suggest that direct experience of erratic weather may be convincing some people that the problem is no longer just a vague and distant threat.

“Most people in the country are looking at everything that’s happened; it just seems to be one disaster after another after another,” said Anthony A. Leiserowitz of Yale University, one of the researchers who commissioned the new poll. “People are starting to connect the dots.”

This is, clearly, welcome news. Fossil fuel companies, the far-right pundit class, grandstanding politicians, and a variety of conservative institutions connected to each have long sought to sow doubt about the veracity of climate change. And they have largely succeeded in mucking up national discourse on the topic.

But the truth is harder to ignore when it comes packaged with a tangible, sweat-inducing visceral experience: When it's January in L.A. and it's 90 degrees out, scientists' projections don't seem so abstract or outlandish. When there's record snowfall one season and record heat the next, you start paying attention: The world is warming, and the weather is weirding.

Tags: Global Climate Change | Global Warming Effects | Global Warming Science

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