Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Call to Consciousness on Climate Change

Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabekwe [Ojibwe], enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg)

Winona LaDuke is a rural development economist who has spent many years working on energy policy and energy self-sufficiency issues in Native America. The author of five books, she is the executive director of Honor the Earth, a national Native American foundation, and founding director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.

LaDuke is a graduate of Harvard University, with graduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master's degree in rural development from Antioch University. Twice a U.S. vice presidential candidate, serving as Ralph Nader's running mate and representing the Green Party in 1996 and 2000, LaDuke lives and works on the White Earth Reservation.

Climate Change in the American Mind: Americans’ Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in May

I’m forwarding this message from the Yale Project on Climate Communication about their brand new report studying American’s beliefs about global warming. Please share.Today we are releasing the first of four reports from our latest national survey on Americans’ climate change and energy beliefs, attitudes, policy support, and behavior. In this report: Americans’ Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in May 2011, we find that since June 2010, a number of important beliefs and attitudes have shifted slightly up or down, depending on the measure.

Since June 2010, public understanding that global warming is happening rose three points, to 64 percent, while belief that it is caused mostly by human activities declined three points, to 47 percent. The number of Americans who worry about global warming held stable at 52 percent, while the number of Americans who said that the issue is personally important to them dropped three points, to 60 percent.

Since June 2010, public understanding that most scientists think global warming is happening rose 5 points, to 39 percent, while 40 percent of Americans continue to believe there is a lot of disagreement among scientists.

For the first time, we asked Americans to estimate what proportion of climate scientists think global warming is happening. Only 13 percent get the correct answer (81 to 100%), while 31 percent say they don’t know. Likewise, only 15 percent correctly understand that the great majority of climate scientists think that global warming is caused mostly by human activities, while 32 percent say they don’t know.

Nonetheless, roughly half of all Americans say that global warming is already causing or making the following events worse in the United States: coastline erosion and flooding (52%); droughts (50%); hurricanes (49%); rivers flooding (48%); and wildfires (45%).

Perhaps reflecting major declines in media reporting, global warming has also dropped in public consciousness. Only 45 percent of Americans say they have thought some (33%) or a lot (12%) about global warming, a drop of 10 points since June 2010. At the same time, 52 percent Americans say they would like more information about global warming – an increase of 5 points since June 2010.

Levels of trust in television weather reporters, the mainstream news media, and scientists as sources of information about global warming have also dropped since June 2010 (by 9, 7, and 5 points respectively). Overall levels of trust remain high, however, for scientists (76%) and for federal agencies that deal with climate change, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (76%); the National Park Service (73%); the Center for Disease Control (69%); the Environmental Protection Agency (62%); and the Department of Energy (59%). President Obama is trusted as a source of information on global warming by 46 percent of Americans, while only 36 percent trust their own U.S. Congressman/Congresswoman.

These upward and downward shifts in public beliefs and attitudes are relatively small, compared to the larger declines that occurred between the fall of 2008 and January 2010.  Public understanding of climate change – and public engagement in the issue – remains lower than it was in 2008.

The report can be downloaded here:
Americans’ Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in May 2011

I’ll be back in touch next week with a report on changes in Americans’ support for climate and energy policies, followed by updates on their behaviors, and Global Warming’s Six Americas. As always, thanks for your support and interest in our work.

Anthony Leiserowitz, Ph.D.
Director, Yale Project on Climate Change
School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
Yale University
(203) 432-4865

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