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The Only Thing Worse Than Climate Change is the American Publics’ Perception of Climate Change

By April 5, 2009February 28th, 2013Deniers and Delayers, Ozone Hole

 Over 97% of climate scientists understand that humankind has been a significant contributor to rising temperatures across the planet yet 42% of Americans believe there is a lot of disagreement between climate scientists. 

Polls and surveys tell us a lot of things. They all do not tell us the same things, but they often do not ask the same things either. We learn generalities as well as specifics from polls and surveys. We start to understand just what it is that the public is thinking and in some cases we even begin to understand why the public is thinking the way that the polls suggest. We understand that for an individual, reality is what that individual is thinking.

Across all countries, an average 90 percent say that “climate change or global warming due to the greenhouse effect” is a serious problem, but 60% believe that climate change will NOT pose a serious threat to them in their lifetime and 41% of Americans believe that the press is exaggerating the issue of climate change. (See here)

Almost 60% of Americans believe they have a "fairly good" understanding of climate change, but  69% believe that reduction of atmospheric ozone is a major cause of global warming. *

Global warming ranked 8th out of 8 environmental issues with Americans and 20th out of 20 top issues in America.


* Ozone: This confusion was created because the discovery of the ozone hole over Antarctica and general atmospheric ozone depletion occurred coincidentally with the popular understanding of global warming. Ozone is a greenhouse gas and one of the more unstable of the atmospheric gasses. Because it is a greenhouse gas, reduction of ozone actually cools the atmosphere. It is the other complex relationships between ozone and other gasses in the atmosphere as well as other environmental processes that create warming from a reduction of ozone. The cooling and warming effects tend to somewhat cancel each other out although there is not yet a thorough understanding of ozone in our atmosphere. Overall we know it is a minor contributor to global warming, not a major contributor as is suggested by the polling.

Increased Number Think Global Warming Is “Exaggerated”

Doran and Zimmerman Examining the Scientific Consensus, EOS Jan 2009.

30-Country Poll Finds Worldwide Consensus that Climate Change is a Serious Problem

UN Human Development Report 2007 / 2008, Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World, Executive Summary. UN Human Development Report 20072008 Fighting Climate Change Human Solidarity in a Divided World_summary_english.

Rutgers CSP Poll November 9, 2008.

Economy, Jobs Trump All Other Policy Priorities In 2009.