In recent weeks we have had a discouraging barrage of comments on Million Trees from someone who does not believe that the climate has changed. We responded within the limitations of our research tools because such disbelief is an obstacle to the public policy needed to address the problem. We are now pleased to inform our readers that such disbelief is dwindling and that only a small minority of Americans continues to disbelieve in the reality of climate change.
Associated Press and Gfk Roper Public Affairs & Corporate Communications conducted a poll of Americans about climate change in November 2012. They found that only 18% of Americans say that the temperature has probably not gone up in the past 100 years, while 78% say it probably has gone up. This is a 4% decline in the percentage of Americans who don’t believe the temperature has increased since the last poll was conducted in 2009.
The majority (57%) of those who think the temperature has increased are extremely or very sure about it, while only 31% of those who don’t believe the temperature has increased are extremely or very sure about their opinion. In other words, a small minority of Americans doesn’t believe that the climate has changed and they aren’t as confident about their opinion as those who do believe that the climate has changed
Also, most (80%) Americans who think the climate has changed, consider it a serious problem and a growing majority (57%) think the U.S. government should do something about global warming.
Trusting our eyes and ears
The most fascinating aspect of the study was that science apparently does not deserve the credit for this growing acknowledgement of the reality of climate change. Only 31% of those surveyed said they “trust the things scientists say about the environment” completely or a lot. This is actually a small decrease from the percentage (32%) of Americans who said that at the time of the last survey in 2009.
Apparently, the increasing numbers of Americans who now believe in the reality of climate change are primarily using their own eyes and ears to reach this conclusion. Jon Kronick, social psychologist and pollster at Stanford University, advised the Associated Press on the poll. He said of those who have become believers in the past two years, “They don’t believe what the scientists say, they believe what the thermometers say…Events are helping these people see what scientists thought they had been seeing all along.” (1)
We are encouraged by this news. We hope that it will give our politicians the courage to start taking action to address the causes of climate change. An easy and painless place to start is to quit destroying the trees that are storing tons of carbon solely because they aren’t native. When those trees are destroyed, the stored carbon is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide as the wood decays. Carbon dioxide is the predominant greenhouse gas which is contributing to climate change.
Happy New Year! May 2013 bring to the San Francisco Bay Area saner, less destructive management of our public lands. Thank you for your readership in 2012.
(1) Associated Press, “More in U.S. believe in global warming,” San Francisco Chronicle, December 15, 2012.