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Multiple Polls Reveal Overwhelming Concern about Global Warming among Americans

Noisy minority, confusing questions and misleading headlines have created wrong impression, researchers say

By Elizabeth McGowan

Jun 15, 2010

WASHINGTON—Much-ballyhooed polls from Gallup, CNN and the Pew Research Center have led our short-attention-span nation to believe that Americans are increasingly skeptical about the very existence of global warming.

However, Stanford University political science and psychology professor Jon Krosnick, who has conducted surveys about climate change since at least 1995, questions that conclusion, and evidently has the goods to back up his doubts. Belief in the reality, human causes and threats of global warming is alive and very much kicking, he maintains.

His June 1-7 indicates that 74 percent thought the Earth’s temperature had heated up during the last 100 years, 75 percent attribute warming to human behavior, and 86 percent want the federal government to limit air pollution emissions from businesses.

Two other recent polls support Krosnick's assessment -- including one that surveyed small business owners -- and taken together they are giving Senators, hemming and hawing about climate legislation, something new to think about as election season approaches.

Krosnick's survey did turn up a small decline in the proportion of people who believe global warming has been happening—from 84 percent in 2007 to 80 percent in 2008 to 74 percent today.

But a statistical analysis attributed that drop to perceptions of recent weather changes by what Krosnick called the minority of Americans skeptical of climate scientists.

“If somebody tells you that Americans are cooling on global warming, keep in mind that 74 percent is a gigantic number in America,” Krosnick told a Washington audience during a June 10 briefing presented by the bipartisan nonprofit Environmental and Energy Study Institute.

“Huge majorities of Americans still believe the Earth has been gradually warming as the result of human activity and want the government to institute regulations to stop it.”

Headlines that claim otherwise are misleading and likely misinterpreting data, says Krosnick, a senior fellow with Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment. The National Science Foundation funded his latest survey.

He chastised publications for headlines such as “Poll Finds Americans More Confused About Climate,” “Public More Complacent About Climate Change,” and “Americans No Longer Swallowing Global Warming Dogma.”

The Stanford numbers were just part of a recent, albeit small, outbreak of what might be called “pollitis” in the capital region.

George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and Yale University released a joint poll titled “American Opinion on Climate Change Warms Up.” And not to be outdone, the Small Business Majority touted a poll showing that a majority of small and minority-owned businesses favor government action on climate change and clean energy technology.

Small Businesses Want to Get on the Clean Energy Train

What is thought to be the first survey garnering opinions about climate change and clean energy among small businesses turned up some timely and intriguing benchmarks for John Arensmeyer, founder and chief executive officer of the Small Business Majority, a research, education and advocacy organization.

“We know this is a critical area and we need to get a handle on it,” Arensmeyer told Solve Climate in an interview. “This is our first foray. We’ll take these results and start a dialog with businesses.”

polled owners, managers and CEOs of 802 small business owners nationwide with 100 or fewer employees. That figure included 100 African American owners and 100 Hispanic owners.

Results showed that 61 percent agree that a move to clean energy can restart the economy and help small businesses create jobs, and that half of the small businesses support clean energy and climate legislation.

The AGW mistake

Opinions revealed in polls are primarily from non-technological people who form their opinions from the media. Threat of looming disaster is news and was widely reported by the media. Observation that a disaster is not happening is not news and is not reported, so lots of folks remain misinformed.


 


From 2001 through August 2010 the atmospheric CO2 increased by 21% of the total increase from 1800 to 2001 while the average global temperature has not increased significantly and the trend of yearly averages from 2001 through 2009 is down.


 


As this wide and rapidly growing separation between the rising CO2 level and not-rising temperature continues, word will spread and the polls will continue to show decline in the number of people who believe in significant AGW.


 


I am a licensed Mechanical Engineer. I have done unpaid research on climate for thousands of hours. I derived a simple equation with inputs of only sunspot number and carbon dioxide level that calculates the average global temperature trends since 1895 with 88% accuracy. See an eye-opening graph of the results and how they are derived in the pdf files at


 

Polls reveal concern about global warming

Krosnick claims that his survey shows that of those interviewed, "75
percent of respondents said that human behavior was substantially
responsible for any warming that has occurred." Only problem is it
does no such thing.

Looking at the questionnaire, the question asked was: "Do you think a
rise in the world's temperature is being caused mostly by things
people do, mostly by natural causes, or about equally by things
people do and by natural causes?" The responses were:

Things People Do 30%
Natural Causes 25%
Both Equally 45%

So what Krosnick has dishonestly done is to add together the number
of respondents who thought that warming was mostly the result of AGW
and those who thought it was 'equally' caused by natural causes and
AGW to get his 75%!

Using the same trickery one can argue that the results show that 70%
of respondents believe that warming is caused by 'natural causes.'

Polls reveal concern about global warming

Good story, but belief in global warming may not mean that much in terms of change. Some statistics from a June 2009 George Mason/Yale study are revealing.

According to this study, most of those who take action out of concern for the issue do so through their buying decisions. (Not unimportant, but perception often trumps reality regarding green consumer decisions.) And fewer than a quarter of the most-inclined-toward-action “alarmed” group (~18% of the public in June 2009) make significant lifestyle changes or call their elected representatives to urge emissions reduction legislation.

The vote last week on the EPA regulation of CO2 is but one example related to these key statistics. If opinions really mattered to politicians, almost half of the senate would not have voted against regulation. Silent beliefs are no match for fossil fuel industry lobbying and funding.

Climate Change

Is human activity a substantial cause of global climate change?

Over the 20th century the earth warmed 1-1.4°F and climate changes including more intense heat waves, stronger hurricanes, loss of sea ice, glacier retreat, and more droughts have occurred. As of Apr. 2010, levels of the greenhouse gas CO2 were 389 parts per million – allegedly higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years.

Some people argue that rising levels of human-produced greenhouse gases are warming the planet and causing the climate to change.

Others argue that reported greenhouse gas increases are too small to change the climate, and that 20th century warming has been the result of natural processes such as fluctuations in the sun’s heat and ocean currents.

For some great information on both sides of the debate check out

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