More Americans may be linking global warming with the spate of extreme weather events across the country in recent months, survey reports.
“People are starting to connect the dots.”
And doing so despite a frequently “very simplistic mental model of what global warming is supposed to be.”
With those words, Yale Project on Climate Change Communication Director Anthony Leiserowitz (who, not so incidentally, is also Publisher of The Yale Forum) captured a key message from a new nationwide survey he and colleagues from George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication conducted:
A large majority of Americans believe that global warming made several high-profile extreme weather events worse, including the unusually warm winter of December 2011 and January 2012 (72 percent), record high summer temperatures in the U.S. in 2011 (70 percent), the drought in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 (69 percent), record snowfall in the U.S. in 2010 and 2011 (61 percent), the Mississippi River floods in the spring of 2011 (63 percent), and Hurricane Irene (59 percent).
“The survey, the most detailed to date on the public response to weather extremes, comes atop other polling showing a recent uptick in concern about climate change,” New York Times reporter Justin Gillis wrote in the story that included Leiserowitz’ quotes above. “Read together,” Gillis continued, “the polls suggest that direct experience of erratic weather may be convincing some people that the problem is no longer just a vague and distant threat.”
The Yale/George Mason poll “opens a new window on public opinion about climate change,” Gillis wrote. He quoted Gallup Editor Frank M. Newport as saying “It’s certainly possible that this is the start of a trend back up,” while also cautioning that more research is needed over the next year before that can be determined.
Many climate scientists are themselves perhaps more restrained than the public at large in linking human-caused climate change to more, or more severe, weather extremes in recent months and years, though other climatologists indicate their research is leading them more and more in that direction. (See The Yale Forum‘s recent This Is Not Cool video, produced by independent video professional Peter Sinclair.)
Details on the Yale/George Mason methodology, numbers interviewed, and more are available from the PDF report of the full survey, as linked above.