Results of the ongoing Yale study, 'Global warming's six Amercas' for September 2012. The number of Americans alarmed about climate change has increased from 10 percent in 2010 to 16 percent in 2012, while the dismissive group has decreased in size, from 16 percent in 2010 to 8 percent in 2012. Graphic: Yale Project on Climate Change Communication

By Emma Goldberg, Staff Reporter
2 April 2013

(Yale Daily News) – Yale researchers have found that Americans are growing increasingly alarmed about climate change.

On March 15 Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, appeared on national television saying that Americans are ready for the government to “end the silence” on climate change. He cited a study called Global Warming’s Six Americas in September 2012, published on March 6 by researchers from the YPCC and the George Mason Center for Climate Change Communication, which showed that the number of Americans alarmed about climate change has increased from 10 percent in 2010 to 16 percent in 2012. Researchers from Yale and George Mason are now questioning whether public alarm about climate change is connected to weather extremities such as February’s 38-inch blizzard.

“There is something fundamentally different in the way Americans are engaging with the issue of climate change at this moment,” Leiserowitz said. “Our political leaders have been silent about the issue and the media has been very quiet. Now we are beginning to talk about it again.”

Researchers divided the U.S. population into six categories — alarmed, concerned, cautious, disengaged, doubtful and dismissive — based on their attitudes toward climate change. As of September 2012, the largest audience segment is the concerned group, the 29 percent of Americans who are “moderately certain” climate change is occurring and is human-caused. The smallest audience segment is the dismissive group, the 8 percent of Americans who are certain global warming is not occurring. Between 2010 and 2012, the number of Americans alarmed about global warming increased by 6 percentage points while the number of dismissive Americans decreased by 8 percentage points.

“We first identified the ‘six Americas’ in 2008 and have been tracking the evolution of their climate change beliefs, feelings, policy preferences and actions ever since,” said Edward Maibach, director of the George Mason Center for Climate Change Communication and a principal investigator of the study.

Maibach said he is currently working with Yale researchers to conduct a national survey examining how Hurricane Sandy and other recent weather events impacted American beliefs about climate change. Weather extremities have helped Americans understand that climate change has a dramatic impact on local communities and not only foreign nations, Leiserowitz said.

“[A] pervasive sense up to now has been that climate change is distant — distant in time and distant in space,” Leiserowitz said during his March 15 appearance on Bill Moyers Journal. “And what we’re now beginning to see is that it’s not so distant.” [more]

Public alarm over climate change grows


(Yale Project on Climate Communication) – In this update on Global Warming's Six Americas [pdf], we report that the Alarmed have grown from 10 percent of the American adult population in 2010 to 16 percent in 2012. At the same time, the Dismissive have decreased in size, from 16 percent in 2010 to 8 percent in 2012.  The report focuses on how the six groups perceive the benefits and costs of reducing fossil fuel use or global warming; their support for different national climate change and energy policies; and their beliefs about who has influence over the decisions that elected officials make.

Highlights:

  • Reducing our dependence on foreign oil, creating green jobs and improving the economy are ranked among the top five benefits by all Six Americas.
  • Majorities of all Six Americas say the U.S. should increase its use of renewable energy.
  • In five of the six segments, larger proportions prefer to reduce, rather than increase fossil fuel use; only the Dismissive prefer to increase the nation’s use of fossil fuels.
  • In every segment except the Dismissive, half or more favor the elimination of subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and oppose the elimination of subsidies to renewable energy companies.
  • In five of the Six Americas, majorities believe that if they work with others who share their views, they can influence their elected representatives' decisions.
  • All Six Americas, however, believe that people who share their own views on global warming have less influence than campaign contributors, fossil fuel companies, the media, etc.  People who share their views are, in fact, perceived as having the least political influence by every segment.
  • Five of the six segments believe that large campaign contributors have the strongest influence on elected officials.

Global Warming’s Six Americas in September 2012

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