Americans Warming to Climate Change Reality

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The nor’easter bearing down on the East Coast is the second abnormally intense storm to strike the region in less than a year. Perhaps in response to the increased frequency of deadly storms and weather disasters, a Duke University poll found that American belief in climate change has rebounded to its highest level since 2006.

Most Americans Favor Action on Climate Change

Fifty percent of Americans are convinced of climate change, while another 34 percent believe it is probably changing. Those numbers have been steadily increasing since the low point of the recession, when climate change seems to have been less of a worry than putting food on the table.

Fifty-four percent of Americans believe that human activity is the primary cause of climate change. This issue has been a political pawn used to cast doubt on the responsibility Americans, as some of the world’s top polluters, have towards reducing greenhouse gas pollution. However, there has been no geological activity, such as a volcanic eruption, that could explain the steadily increasing atmospheric amounts of carbon dioxide, methane and other heat-trapping gases. Likewise, solar activity hasn’t followed a pattern that would explain why global average temperatures have increased steadily over the past century.

Wild Weather Around the World

Politics have played a large role in determining whether Americans agree with climate scientists or not, as well as how serious Americans perceive the problem to be. Half of Democrats believe climate change is a serious problem, whereas 35 percent of independents and 17 percent of Republicans feel that way.

With increasing belief in climate change come awareness of the need to do something about it. Americans tended to favor familiar methods for reducing greenhouse gas pollution.

“The survey shows strikingly high numbers of Americans accept that the climate is changing, but support for market-based approaches such as a carbon tax and a system of tradable emissions are not popular among survey respondents,” said co-author Sarah Adair of Duke University, in a press release. “Support rises when asked about more familiar concepts of regulation, such as performance standards, but respondents appear to have little or no knowledge about the possible use of a cap-and-trade system to address climate change.”

IMAGE: The place where 85-year-old James Rossi died after Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge destroyed his home. (Thomas Good, Wikimedia Commons)

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