Vast Majority of Americans Believe Global Warming is 'Serious Problem'

At the release of the global-warming disaster movie, “The Day After Tomorrow,” a national poll undertaken at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies indicates that 70 percent of Americans believe global warming is a very serious or somewhat serious problem, while just 20 percent of Americans believe global warming does not represent a serious issue.

The survey, carried out by the national polling firm, Global Strategy Group, gauged environmental attitudes of 1,000 adults across the United States. Completed earlier this month, the poll shows much broader environmental interest and focus than pundits have suggested.

One of the key poll findings is that a clear majority of Americans, 55 percent, believe “the scientific evidence is in” when it comes toglobal warming. Significant majorities of Democrats (66 percent) and Independents (55 percent) want action to address the problem. Forty-four percent of Republican women and 35 percent of Republican men share the view that it is now time to act.

“The results couldn’t be clearer,” said Dean Gus Speth of Yale’s environment school. “People have serious concerns about global warming because they believe the scientific data show there is a problem. Americans of all stripes recognize that unless we act now, our world will grow hotter, sea levels will rise, and the Earth could suffer increasingly severe droughts, floods, windstorms and wildfires.”

“We don’t need Hollywood to exaggerate the issue,” observed Speth. “The American public understands that the buildup of greenhouse gases is a very real threat. It is very scary. And people want it dealt with - now.”

The poll also indicates that, as a result of their concerns about global warming and other environmental issues, a majority of Americans (56 percent) want to hear more from presidential candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry on their respective positions on environmental issues. Again, this figure represents substantial majorities of Democrats (65 percent) and Independents (64 percent), as well as significant numbers of Republicans (38 percent).

“The environment-especially global warming-can no longer be dismissed as a minor issue,” said Dan Esty, director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy and one of the members of the Yale research team. “It can be no surprise that the public wants the candidates for president to talk more about their positions on the environment, including their plans to address greenhouse-gas emissions.”

Esty added that the while the movie is “farfetched and clearly intended as entertainment and not an exploration of the real issues, “The Day After Tomorrow” may help to put global warming front and center in the national political debate.”

“Our poll indicates that most people know about global warming. They have serious concerns about the issue, and they want public officials to address it and other environmental issues,” said Esty. “My hope is that the buzz the movie generates will carry over into the public-policy forum and spur renewed focus on the part of this country’s leaders to address these issues in a thoughtful, systematic and serious way.”

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