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A history of the publics perception of global warming

The divisions start with views about the causes of global climate change. Nearly half of U. The disputes extend to differing views about the likely impact of climate change and the possible remedies, both at the policy level and the level of personal behavior. Roughly four-in-ten Americans expect harmful effects from climate change on wildlife, shorelines and weather patterns.

At the same time, many are optimistic that both policy and individual efforts to address climate change can have an impact. On all of these matters there are wide differences along political lines with conservative Republicans much less inclined to anticipate negative effects from climate change or to judge proposed solutions as making much difference in mitigating any effects.

Half or more liberal Democrats, by contrast, see negative effects from climate change as very likely and believe an array of policy solutions can make a big difference. Americans who are more deeply concerned about climate issues, regardless of their partisan orientation, are particularly likely to see negative effects ahead from climate change, and strong majorities among this group think policy solutions can be effective at addressing climate change.

Roughly two-thirds of Americans say climate scientists should have a major role in policy decisions about climate matters, more than say that the public, energy industry leaders, or national and international political leaders should be so involved. But, overall, majorities of Americans appear skeptical of climate scientists. No more than a third of the public gives climate scientists high marks for their understanding of climate change; even fewer say climate scientists understand the best ways to address climate change.

A minority of Americans perceive that the best available scientific evidence is driving climate research findings most of the time.

  1. Or, as shown later in this chapter, those beliefs could tie to distrust that elected officials provide full and accurate information about the causes of climate change.
  2. Few in either party say climate scientists should have no role in these policy decisions. By comparison, fewer Americans believe elected officials should have a major role in climate policy decisions.
  3. Similarly, people who care more about climate issues are more inclined to see consensus among scientists about the causes of climate change.
  4. On questions about climate change and trust of climate scientists, there are wide differences between those who lean to the Democratic Party and those who lean to the Republican Party. A profile of climate-engaged Americans Those most concerned about climate issues come from all gender, age, education, race and ethnic groups.

And a roughly equal share says other, more negative, factors influence climate research. It then details the divides in these views among political groups and among those who are more or less concerned about climate issues. Americans who care more about the issue of climate change, regardless of political orientation, are more trusting of climate scientists, more likely to expect negative effects to occur because of climate change, and more likely to believe that both individual efforts and policy actions can be effective in addressing climate change.

At least three-quarters of Americans say that harm to animal habitats and plant life is very or fairly likely to occur. A similar share expects storms to become more severe and damage to shorelines or more frequent droughts to occur. Roughly half of U. The Obama administration announced stricter limits on power plant emissions in 2015. This year, more than 175 countriesincluding the U.

Public assessments of other policy proposals are similar. Who do Americans want most at the policy table? Climate scientists, followed by the public. Fewer say elected officials, international political leaders should have a major role A majority of Americans say that climate scientists should have a role in policy decisions about climate issues. By comparison, fewer Americans believe elected officials should have a major role in climate policy decisions.

Public views about the role of elected officials in policy decisions on climate issues may tie with deep public cynicism about the federal governmentgenerally. Or, as shown later in this chapter, those beliefs could tie to distrust that elected officials provide full and accurate information about the causes of climate change. Minority of public sees consensus among climate scientists over causes of global warming Scientists first noted the possibility that the burning of greenhouse gases, such as fossil fuels, could increase temperatures back in the 1800s.

A report from National Academy of Sciences in 1977 warned that the burning of fossil fuels could result in average temperatures increases of 6 degrees Celsius by the year 2150. Among those who say climate change is due to human activity, many more say scientists are in agreement on the main cause of climate change.

Far more Americans say they trust information from climate scientists on the causes of climate change than say they trust either energy industry leaders, the news media or elected officials. But in absolute terms, public trust in information from climate scientists is limited. Public trust in information from the news media, energy industry leaders and elected officials is significantly lower, however.

A majority of Americans report having not too much or no trust in information from these groups about the causes of climate change. But majorities say these less germane motivations influence results at least some of the time.

  • On questions about climate change and trust of climate scientists, there are wide differences between those who lean to the Democratic Party and those who lean to the Republican Party;
  • A profile of climate-engaged Americans Those most concerned about climate issues come from all gender, age, education, race and ethnic groups;
  • But in absolute terms, public trust in information from climate scientists is limited;
  • People who say they closely follow climate news tend to give the media somewhat higher marks for coverage in this area as do those who say care a great deal about climate issues;
  • Half or more liberal Democrats, by contrast, see negative effects from climate change as very likely and believe an array of policy solutions can make a big difference;
  • No more than a third of the public gives climate scientists high marks for their understanding of climate change; even fewer say climate scientists understand the best ways to address climate change.

Partisan leaners tend to have attitudes and opinions very similar to those of partisans. On questions about climate change and trust of climate scientists, there are wide differences between those who lean to the Democratic Party and those who lean to the Republican Party.

And leaners and partisans of their party have roughly the same positions on these questions. Political divides are dominant in public views about climate matters. People on the ideological ends of either party, that is liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans, see the world through vastly different lenses across all of these judgments.

About six-in-ten or more of liberal Democrats say it is very likely that climate change will bring droughts, storms that are more severe, harm to animal and plant life, and damage to shorelines from rising sea levels. Most conservative Republicans say each of six actions to address climate change would have small or negligible effects; most liberal Democrats believe each can make a big difference There is wide gulf between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans when it comes to beliefs about how to effectively address climate change.

And, at least half of liberal Democrats say that both personal efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of everyday activities and more people driving hybrid and electric vehicles can make a big difference in addressing global warming.

  1. And, at least half of liberal Democrats say that both personal efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of everyday activities and more people driving hybrid and electric vehicles can make a big difference in addressing global warming.
  2. Large majorities of those who care most about this issue think it is very likely that climate change will hurt the environment.
  3. And, they are more likely to be Hispanic than the population as whole. Most conservative Republicans say each of six actions to address climate change would have small or negligible effects; most liberal Democrats believe each can make a big difference There is wide gulf between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans when it comes to beliefs about how to effectively address climate change.

By contrast, conservative Republicans are largely pessimistic about the effectiveness of these options. Most conservative Republicans say each of these actions would make a small difference or have no effect on climate change.

About three-in-ten or fewer conservative Republicans say each would make a big difference. Few in either party say climate scientists should have no role in these policy decisions.

But there some differences among party and ideology groups in their relative priorities about this. Conservative Republicans give a higher comparative priority to the general public in policy decisions about climate change issues.

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Relative to other groups rated, fewer Americans think elected officials should have a major say in climate policy. Conservative Republicans stand out as being disinclined to support a major role for elected officials or leaders from other nations in climate policy. Much smaller shares of other groups see widespread consensus among climate scientists. Moderate or liberal Republicans and moderate or conservative Democrats fall in the middle between these two extremes in their level of trust.

Conservative Republicans are particularly skeptical about the factors influencing climate research. Not surprisingly, those who care a great deal about global climate change issues are more attentive to climate news.

A profile of climate-engaged Americans Those most concerned about climate issues come from all gender, age, education, race and ethnic groups.

The Politics of Climate

And, they are more likely to be Hispanic than the population as whole. Politically, those who care more deeply about climate issues tend to be Democrats. People who say they care a great deal about this issue are far more likely to believe the Earth is warming because of human activities, to believe negative effects from climate change are likely, and that proposals to address climate change will be effective. This group also holds more positive views about climate scientists and their research, on average.

Differences between those more concerned and less concerned occur among both Republicans and Democrats.

Differences between those who care more and less about climate change issues occur among both Republicans and Democrats. Large majorities of those who care most about this issue think it is very likely that climate change will hurt the environment. Many of those who do not care at all or not too much about the issue of climate change say the evidence of warming is uncertain; this group is particularly skeptical that any of these harms will come to pass.

Differences among the more and less concerned about climate issues occur both among Republicans and Democrats alike. People who are especially concerned about climate issues are optimistic that both policy and personal efforts can be effective at addressing climate change Majorities of climate-engaged Americans are optimistic that a range of both policy and individual actions can make a big difference in addressing climate change.

Those less personally concerned about climate issues are considerably more pessimistic, by comparison. By contrast, no more than two-in-ten American who are not at all or not too personally concerned about climate issues think each of these policy actions can make a big difference, although a sizeable minority among this group says each can make a small difference.

The same pattern occurs when it comes to individual efforts to address climate change. This pattern holds among both Democrats and Republicans. Many fewer of less climate-concerned adults say the same. Similarly, people who care more about climate issues are more inclined to see consensus among scientists about the causes of climate change.

Two-thirds of Americans deeply concerned about climate issues trust information from climate scientists Those more concerned about global climate issues are far more trusting of information from climate scientists than are those less concerned about these issues. Democrats and Republicans who care a great deal about climate issues are more than twice as likely as their fellow partisans to hold a lot of trust in information from climate scientists.

Public views of news coverage about global climate change The news media are a key source of information about climate issues. Overall, Americans are closely divided in their assessments of media coverage on climate issues.

  • And, they are more likely to be Hispanic than the population as whole;
  • It then details the divides in these views among political groups and among those who are more or less concerned about climate issues;
  • Partisan leaners tend to have attitudes and opinions very similar to those of partisans;
  • See John Cook et al, 2016, Consensus on consensus;
  • About six-in-ten or more of liberal Democrats say it is very likely that climate change will bring droughts, storms that are more severe, harm to animal and plant life, and damage to shorelines from rising sea levels;
  • Who do Americans want most at the policy table?

People who say they closely follow climate news tend to give the media somewhat higher marks for coverage in this area as do those who say care a great deal about climate issues.

Public views about media performance also tend to divide along political lines. The public divide over media performance in this area could link to the balance of coverage on climate issues.

The same pattern occurs on a question about the balance of attention to those skeptical of climate change. In keeping with the wide political divides on beliefs about climate issues, there are strong political differences in views about media coverage of climate change.

Opinions about media coverage of skeptics follow a similar pattern. The Physical Science Basis2013. See John Cook et al, 2016, Consensus on consensus: Surveys of scientists have also found strong majorities in agreement on the causes of climate change.