On a Climate Change Knowledge Test, Half of Americans Would Flunk


photo: amboo who?/Creative Commons

There've been a number of studies calculating just how little the average American knows about the science of climate change, and here's another which lays out the ignorance pretty clearly: Yale University found that if we were getting letter grades, just 8% would get an A or B, 40% would receive a C or D, and 52% would flunk. Perhaps those poor scores are balanced somewhat by the fact that only about 11-14% of Americans classify themselves as being "very well informed" about climate change, with about half saying they are "fairly well informed", and three-quarters wanting to know more.

Americans Have Important Knowledge Gaps About Global Warming
Furthermore, Americans' Knowledge of Climate Change, "also found important gaps in knowledge and common misconceptions about climate change and the earth system. These misconceptions lead some people to doubt that global warming is happening or that human activities are a major contributor, to misunderstand the causes and therefore the solutions, and to be unaware of the risks."

Many Incorrectly Link the Ozone Hole With Climate Change
Here are some indicators of Americans' knowledge, or lack thereof about climate change:

Large majorities of people incorrectly think that the hole in the ozone layer and aerosol spray cans contribute to global warming, which some concluding that banning spray cans or "stopping rockets from punching holes in the ozone layer" are effective climate change solutions.

Knowledge of Global Warming Causes & Effects Weak At Best
Though 87% of Americans have heard of the greenhouse effect, only 57% of people know that it refers to gases in the atmosphere trapping heat, with 13% never having heard the term; 50% of people know that global warming is mostly caused by human activity; 45% of people understanding that CO2 traps heat; just 25% of people have even heard the terms coral bleaching or ocean acidification.

Interestingly, the study found that despite controversy about errors in the 2007 IPCC report, Americans trust scientists and scientific organizations more than any other source when it comes to getting more information about climate change.

Read the full report: Americans' Knowledge of Climate Change [PDF] -- lots of detailed stats further breaking down where we need to improve...

The one question I have, and there's probably a survey on it (though a brief search didn't turn up one immediately), is how this compares to adult Americans' knowledge about science more broadly. Do we know more or less about climate change than other scientific topics?

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More on Global Climate Change:
Just 57% of US Residents See Evidence of Global Warming & 23% Know About Cap-and-Trade
Increased Knowledge About Global Warming = Apathy?
Why the US Lags Behind the Entire World in Understanding Climate Change

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