New research out of Yale reveals that American belief in climate change has risen to 70% for the first time since 2008. Not only that, but a majority, 54%, now believe that it's caused by humans. Not only that, but a full 40% believe that global warming is harming people right now. Congratulations, America — you believe in climate change again.
This is all pretty momentous stuff, and it's no doubt a reaction to the extreme weather that slammed the U.S. this year.
From the study:
- Americans’ belief in the reality of global warming has increased by 13 percentage points over the past two and a half years, from 57 percent in January 2010 to 70 percent in September 2012. At the same time, the number of Americans who say global warming is not happening has declined nearly by half, from 20 percent in January 2010 to only 12 percent today.
- For the first time since 2008, more than half of Americans (54%) believe global warming is caused mostly by human activities, an increase of 8 points since March 2012. Americans who say it is caused mostly by natural changes in the environment have declined to 30 percent (from 37% in March).
- A growing number of Americans believe global warming is already harming people both at home and abroad. Four in ten say people around the world are being harmed right now by climate change (40%, up 8 percentage points since March 2012), while 36 percent say global warming is currently harming people in the United States (up six points since March).
Some will argue that these findings aren't all that important — climate belief is like water sloshing in a shallow pan, New York Times climate blogger Andrew Revkin likes to say. And indeed, polls routinely show that belief in global warming rises along with the temperature; you'll find larger margins of folks who do in the thick of summer.
But this is a pretty sizable jump; much bigger than those we've seen in years past. To me, it demonstrates that Americans are fully capable of processing the available information on climate when extreme weather forces their hand. Once global warming punches us in the gut, we start to get it.
And the fact that 4 out of 10 Americans realize that global warming is impacting the world here and now demonstrates a somewhat surprising breadth of empathy. It's further evidence that after the long years of political failure and denier-propelled 'scandal narratives, Americans may finally be reformulating a will to act.