Researchers at Yale and George Mason Universities have identified six distinct “Americas” when it comes to the issue of global warming. One of these groups, the “Dismissive,” who believe global warming is not happening and is probably a hoax, has more than doubled in size since 2008 and now represent 16 percent of the American public, according to the report, Global Warming’s Six Americas, January 2010.
Meanwhile, the percentage of the “Alarmed”—Americans who are the most convinced that global warming is happening, is caused by humans and is a serious and urgent threat—has dropped from 18 percent in 2008 to 10 percent.
“Gloomy unemployment numbers, public frustration with Washington, attacks on climate science and mobilized opposition to national climate legislation represent a ‘perfect storm’ of events that have diminished public concerns about global warming—even among the Alarmed,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change and a co-author of the report.
Shifts also occurred among the four other groups:
The “Concerned”—Americans who believe global warming is a serious problem and support an active national response, but are less personally involved—have dropped to 29 percent of the public, down from 33 percent in 2008.
The “Cautious”—who believe global warming is a problem but not an urgent one, and are unsure whether it is human caused—increased to 27 percent, from 19 percent in 2008.
The “Disengaged”—Americans who do not know much about global warming or whether it is happening, and have not thought much about it—decreased to 6 percent, down from 12 percent in 2008.
The “Doubtful”—who are not sure whether global warming is happening and believe that, if it is, it is natural and a distant threat—increased slightly to 13 percent, from 11 percent in 2008.
Surprisingly, majorities in all six groups say that developing sources of clean energy should be a priority for President Obama and Congress. They also strongly support more funding for research into renewable energy sources and tax rebates for people who buy energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels.
Regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, which is currently being considered by the Environmental Protection Agency, is supported by almost all of the groups, including 91 percent of the Alarmed, 93 percent of the Concerned, 79 percent of the Cautious, 92 percent of the Disengaged and 52 percent of the Doubtful. Only the Dismissive oppose regulation of carbon dioxide, with only 15 percent supporting the policy.
“The fact that five of the six Americas support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant is bound to be of interest to the president, Congress, and the EPA,” said Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University. “Some business groups and other special interests are opposing EPA regulation, but most of the American people appear to be for it.”
The results come from a nationally representative survey of 1,001 American adults, age 18 and older. The sample was weighted to correspond with U.S. Census Bureau parameters. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percent, with 95 percent confidence. The survey was designed by researchers at Yale and George Mason Universities and conducted from December 24, 2009 to January 3, 2010 by Knowledge Networks, using an online research panel of American adults.
A copy of the report is available at http://environment.yale.edu/climate.
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