Monday, April 3, 2017

Global Warming Concern & Belief on Upswing!

Good News for Environmentalists?

Two recent Gallup posts certainly sound like good news:

Gallup has been in the polling business for a long time, has a lot of historical data and therefore sets its current findings within that perspective (even if they give attention getting headlines).

Clearly beliefs and concerns about global warming have waxed and waned during the last several decades. They wax when news highlights the threat, they wane when the country is diverted to other concerns such as the economy (e.g. 2009-2011). They increase when Republican's threaten the environment; they diminish when Democrats seem to be doing something about the environment.

We are at one of the highs in these cycles, the highest high ever! Will Republican threat drive the concern even higher? Or will they (and maybe we?) lead Americans to think global warming is about politics not reality. Remember the Law of Averages: when data having multiple causes reaches a new high it is likely to return toward the mean not go higher!  

Environmentalists need to be creative about this opportunity, and overcome these cycles.

The Details and Bottom Line

Global Warming Concern at Three-Decade High in US

Americans' level of worry about global warming has seesawed over the past two decades. Take a quick look at the graphs, they tell the seesaw story better than any words.
Sixty-two percent of Americans now believe the effects of global warming have already begun to happen, up from 49% in 2011.  Previous high of 61% recorded in 2008s
A record 71% of Americans agree that most scientists believe global warming is occurring. This is up from 65% a year ago, the highest Gallup has recorded since 1997. The low point was 52% in 2010. 
Sixty-eight percent of Americans -- the highest Gallup has recorded -- believe increases in Earth's temperatures over the last century are mainly due to the effects of pollution from human activities.

"Concerned Believers" at 50%, up from 37% in 2015
"Mixed Middle" falls to 31%, well below recent high of 45%
"Cool Skeptics" remains smallest group at 19%, down from 26% in 2015  

Half of Americans classified as Concerned Believers take global warming very seriously: the other half are split between what Gallup calls "Cool Skeptics" and the "Mixed Middle."

The Mixed Middle used to dominate but is now down from a recent high of 45% in 2012 and ranks second, at 31%. Cool Skeptics have always been the smallest, but at 19%, their numbers are diminished from 26% in 2015 and the high point of 28% in 2010.

Classifications based on questions: 1) How much Americans worry about global warming or climate change. 2) Whether the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated, underestimated or assessed correctly in the media, 3) Cause: the result of pollution from human activities or mainly from natural causes. 4) A serious threat in their own lifetime.

Strong party effects:  nearly half of Concerned Believers, 47%, identify as Democrats, whereas 61% of Cool Skeptics are Republicans. Mixed Middle is more independent than anything. Concerned Believers are a little more likely to be women and young adults. Cool Skeptics skew decidedly male and older.

As Gallup found in 2014, education is not a strong discriminator between Concerned Believers and Cool Skeptics. Roughly four in 10 people in each group are college graduates. Lack of a college education is, however, strongly associated with being a member of the Mixed Middle.

My Bottom Line: stop debating the college educated, go after the less educated Mixed Middle.

Lake County Forsythia


  1. I am not much encouraged if only half of American takew seriously what they can see with their own eyes. I wonder how belief in man-made Martian canals is doing.

  2. Meanwhile Trump is destroying the EPA and rolling back environmental protections :(

  3. I have been following a heated discussion in America magazine following an article by Fr James Martin. I coulded believe that quite a few of the responders were "deniers". They sounded like educated people. I was shocked. How can that be? It's depressing.

  4. There are many educated people who take the Bible literally, that the world was created about 6000 years ago and they expect it to end soon with the second coming. If I believed all that I might be a denier, too

  5. Rachel, the dirigible Cosgrove who infests the America forum doesn't even believe in evolution. Mosman has appeared on Commonweal and repeats the same whizdumb over and over again. There is not even the slightest interest in understanding the science or the history of the beauty of it. I stopped arguing with Cosgrove years ago because I grew to despise the man. They ARE depressing. At this point, I consider climate denialism as a form of mass cultic insanity. I'm not qualified to straighten out insane people. They would literally die from the effects of climate change and deny it with their last breath.

  6. Is the insanity of climate denialism so endemic in this country because it is based in some kind of already existing mass insanity that maybe even I participate in, just by being American. I mean, genocide of Indians, enslavement of Africans, racism which has not gone away. I thought we were recovering from this, but maybe even that was delusory. Maybe the collective US psyche can't handle the truth. And the mental processes used to deny these awful truths just needs to be redirected to deny climate change.

  7. Well, Stanley, you just made an argument for teaching the humanities. Twisting religious doctrine--and even our foundational documents--to fit business interests has been a feature of our culture for centuries. We are good at making stuff. We are less good at cleaning up the messes.

  8. Jean, I agree with you totally. Science & engineering, medicine, business school, without the humanities, can only create monstrosities.