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Dec 15 2012

Increasing acceptance that humans cause climate change?

It looks like the message that climate change is real is slowly catching on, even in the US. PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) conducted a survey jointly with the Religion News Service (RNS) and the results are quite revealing:

More than 6-in-10 (63%) Americans agree that over the last few years, the weather has gotten more extreme. Roughly 3-in-10 (29%) say the weather has not changed, and less than 1-in-10 (6%) report that the weather has become less extreme.

More than 6-in-10 (63%) Americans say the severity of recent natural disasters is evidence of global climate change, while one-third (33%) disagree.

Three-quarters of Americans agree that there is solid evidence that the average temperature on earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades.

The report says that the figure for the last item has been fluctuating quite a bit, ranging from 77% in 2006, down to 57% in 2009, back up to 69% in 2011, to the current figure of around 75%.

Other hopeful results:

Among Americans who believe the earth is getting warmer, a majority (60%) say these temperature changes are the result of human activity such as burning fossil fuels.

Two-thirds (67%) of Americans say that the U.S. government should do more to address climate change.

However, the survey also shows that there are still a large number of crazies out there.

More than one-third (36%) of Americans believe that the severity of recent natural disasters is evidence that we are in what the Bible calls the end times.

Nearly 6-in-10 (58%) Americans agree that God is in control of everything that happens in the world.

The very last statistic interested me. When coupled with the other results, that implies that there are a considerable number of people (at least 20%) who believe that god wants global temperatures to rise and create extreme weather patterns. This seems silly to me. What I suspect is that a lot of people tend to feel that they must answer ‘yes’ to the last question.

Bill Nye narrates a nice tutorial of how climate change can result in extreme weather patterns.

4 comments

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  1. 1
    Vincenzo

    that implies that there are a considerable number of people (at least 20%) who believe that god wants global temperatures to rise and create extreme weather patterns.
    Alternatively, it may just be another case of doublethink.

  2. 2
    jamessweet

    More than 6-in-10 (63%) Americans say the severity of recent natural disasters is evidence of global climate change, while one-third (33%) disagree.

    This is an interesting question, because up until 6-8 months ago I would have been firmly in the 33% camp, and even now, my answer would be very guarded — despite the fact that I think there is overwhelming evidence supporting the reality of AGW. Weather is not climate, as they say, and I am loathe to ascribe any particular weather event to changing climate. The past year has been enough to tip the scales for me, for me to start to say, “Okay, at least some of this is probably attributable to climate change,” but like I say, until recently my answer would have been no: Rising global temperatures and a vast consensus in models of global climate are evidence for AGW, but specific weather events are not.

  3. 3
    Paul Jarc

    But aren’t specific weather events (part of) what those models are based on? No particular data point would justify the conclusion on its own, but every data point contributes to the justification. (Even especially mild weather/cool temperature is part of the evidence in favor of a particular amount of warming, as opposed to a greater amount.) Every storm is evidence, but to figure out “evidence of what?”, we need to look beyond the storm. Once we have looked beyond and know what the conclusion is, then we can say that every data point that fed into it is evidence for it.

  4. 4
    anat

    The problem is we are (almost?) too late with this acceptance. It is estimated that in order to keep warming within the ‘safe’ 2C above pre-industrial temps we would need to stop *all* emissions of greenhouse gasses within about 10 years. We can’t bring up renewables and nuclear fast enough to substitute all our demand within this time frame. I don’t see people cooperating with the required drop in standard of living when fossil fuels are still available. So unless a miracle happens we are likely to go above safe temperatures and eventually into out-of-control climate change. We may not live to see it, because effects take time to develop, but we will live to see ourselves committing our children to this kind of world. (Right now we are about 0.75C above pre-industrial, but are locked-in for about double that.)

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