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As Americans Increasingly Bear 'Real Costs of Climate Crisis,' Polls Show Soaring Realization of Global Warming's Threat

Extreme weather events and suffering they cause beginning to put dents in "ongoing multi-billion dollar deception campaign" put forth by the fossil fuel industry

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Participants in the 2017 March for Science in Portland, Maine carry signs. (Photo: Paul VanDerWerf/Flickr/cc)

While President Donald Trump, GOP lawmakers, and the fossil fuel industry continue to deny the dangers of the climate crisis to justify pushing for polluter-friendly policies, a growing majority of Americans—faced with increasingly destructive and costly droughts, storms, and wildfires—accept global warming driven by human activity as reality and are concerned about it, according to a pair of polls out Tuesday.

"Together, we are demanding that elected officials at all levels step up on climate action and push forward federal legislation such as the Green New Deal that creates millions of family-sustaining jobs while transitioning our economy to 100 percent renewables."
—May Boeve, 350.org

One survey, conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, found that 73 percent of Americans polled in November and December believe that global warming is happening, a 10 percent jump since March of 2015.

Additionally, 62 percent understand that it's mostly human-caused, 65 percent think it's affecting weather in the United States, and a majority are concerned about harm from extreme heat, flooding, droughts, and water shortages.

"Despite Big Oil's ongoing multi-billion dollar deception campaign, people across America are bearing the real costs of the climate crisis, so it's no surprise we're more concerned than ever," said 350.org executive director May Boeve, in response to the results.

Anthony Leiserowitz, lead researcher of Yale study, said the poll's results are directly tied to climate-related disasters and increased awareness from more frequent reporting on the topic.

"After a year of devastating extreme events, dire scientific reports, and growing media coverage of climate change, a record number of Americans are convinced that human-caused global warming is happening, are increasingly worried, and say the issue is personally important to them," he said.

climate change reality

Climate Change in the American Mind (pdf), the report detailing the survey results, pointed out that "the proportion of Americans who are very worried about global warming has more than tripled since its lowest point in 2011."

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Responding to the dramatic spike in public opinion shown in the poll, Leiserowitz told the New York Times, "I've never seen jumps in some of the key indicators like this."

Another new poll, conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), featured similar findings. That survey found 71 percent of respondents "say climate change is a reality, and most think human activity is primarily responsible."

Notably, while the majority of Americans across the political spectrum accept the human-caused climate crisis as reality, the poll showed that 86 percent of Democrats said "climate change is happening," but that number fell to 70 percent among Independents and 52 percent among Republicans.

"Nearly half of Americans say they're more convinced now about climate change than they were five years ago, and many would pay additional fees or taxes to help combat the problem."
—Trevor Tompson, The AP-NORC Center

In addition, as Trevor Tompson, director of The AP-NORC Center, noted, "The survey reveals that nearly half of Americans say they're more convinced now about climate change than they were five years ago, and many would pay additional fees or taxes to help combat the problem."

Among the 48 percent who said they think climate science today is more convincing than it was five years ago, 76 percent credited recent extreme weather with shifting their opinions. As the center acknowledged, the survey was conducted in November, "while wildfires were burning out of control in California, though there were no significant regional differences in responses."

The AP-NORC Center climate findings

Given the growing number of Americans accepting and being affected by the global climate crisis, 350.org's Boeve concluded that "this is an important moment to educate and organize our communities because we should not have to sit in fear of the next climate impact, such as stronger hurricanes, superstorms, heatwaves or year-round fire seasons, that would devastate our livelihoods."

"Together, we are demanding that elected officials at all levels step up on climate action and push forward federal legislation such as the Green New Deal that creates millions of family-sustaining jobs while transitioning our economy to 100 percent renewables," she said. "We're ready to work collectively to demand the climate justice we deserve."

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