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Poll: Climate Change Skeptics Swayed by Extreme Weather, Not Scientists

Hurricane Sandy, flooding convincing doubters

Beth Brogan, staff writer

Homes left in the wake of superstorm Sandy in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. (Photograph: Mike Groll/AP)

Extreme weather events such as Hurricane Sandy and record temperatures are convincing skeptics far more than scientists are that climate change is taking place, according to a poll (pdf) released Friday by the Associated Press-GfK.

And 80 percent of the 1,002 Americans polled now believe global warming is a serious problem for the US—up from 73 percent in 2009.

The Guardian's Suzanne Goldenberg reports:

Some of the doubters said in follow-up interviews that they were persuaded by personal experience: such as record temperatures, flooding of New York City subway tunnels, and news of sea ice melt in the Arctic and extreme drought in the mid-west.

About 78% of respondents overall believed in climate change, a slight rise from AP's last poll in 2009. The result was in line with other recent polls.

Among climate doubters, however, 61% now say temperatures have been rising over the past century, a substantial rise from 2009 when only 47% believed in climate change.

The change was not among the hard core of climate deniers, but in the next tier of climate doubters, AP reported. About 1 in 3 of the people surveyed fell into that category. "Events are helping these people see what scientists thought they had been seeing all along," Jon Krosnick, a Stanford University psychologist who studies attitudes to climate change and consulted on the poll, told the news agency.

A majority of respondents "trust the things that scientists say about the environment" only a moderate amount, a little or not at all, according to the poll, yet still think the world's temperature has been increasing over the past 100 years.

Those polled were largely split when asked how likely it was that President Barack Obama would be able to "take major steps to address global warming."

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