Most Americans say their local area is experiencing unusually cold weather or a drought, according to a recent poll. When asked if global warming and colder weather or droughts might be connected, most Americans say the two are not connected.
The March 6-9 poll included 1,048 adults selected randomly from all adults living in the United States.
normal weather and one in four say there is a drought in the area. Only nine percent blame global warming for cold weather and nine percent for droughts.
The Gallup Environment poll conducted from March 6-9 asked about weather conditions in the respondents’ location. While extreme cold slammed the Northeast and Midwest this winter, and cold fronts sent freezing weather into the Deep South, parts of California and the Southwest experienced drought conditions.
Gallup also found that the explanations for these weather extremes varied according to party. Democrats were more likely to attribute the extreme weather to global warming than were Republicans. Forty-seven percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independent respondents who said their weather was abnormally cold blamed climate change. Only 11 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents expressed that same opinion.
Climate change got the blame for droughts with 51 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents and 14 percent of Republicans.
The belief that temperature extremes are normal is not new. Most Americans in 2012 thought the winter had been warmer than usual, but most of those individuals attributed the warm weather to normal variations in weather. Now, data show that global warming and cold weather are not connected in the minds of Americans.
Results from this month and from the 2012 poll come amid what climate scientists regard as period of extreme weather, with more droughts, blizzards, storms, hot days, and cold days.
three percent of Democrats and 36 percent of Republicans reported that they think global warming has already begun.
A general lack of concern with global warming might be why so many Americans explain the bad weather in terms of normal weather variations. The latest poll showed that two-thirds of Americans think global warming is happening now or will happen in their lifetimes. And only 36 percent of those people see it as a serious threat to their way of life. This is an increase from 25 percent in 1997.
More people now do not think global warming poses a serious threat to their lifestyles now, compared with 1997, with the number going from 9% then to 18% in this latest survey.
The poll reveals differences in perceptions based on age and political affiliation. Seniors and Republicans express the most skepticism of global warming. A majority (57 percent) of young Americans, aged 18-29, did not see climate changes as a threat.
In 2008, the high point of climate worries in the Gallup Environment polls, 75 percent of respondents expected warming to happen in their lifetimes and 40 percent said that warming posed a serious threat to their lifestyles.
The Poll also asked respondents about the likely pace of change in the climate. Fifty-four percent said global warming is already having an impact. Only 18 percent said it is not going to happen at all. Almost as many people, 16 percent of respondents, thought that climate change would only affect future generations. Three percent of respondents expected warming to begin in a few years, compared to eight percent who expected changes to be evident in their lifetimes.
Gallup explains the practical implications of the no-worries pattern in the poll results. The belief that global warming is not a serious threat may help explain why that issue and environmental issues are a lower priority for government than economy and health care, issues with immediate consequences. This equation might change as older Americans are replaced by younger Americans, who more often see climate change as a serious threat.
Climate research paints a picture of the future that differs greatly from perceptions expressed in this new Gallup poll. According to NASA statistics, the average global temperature rose 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880. Two-thirds of that increase has come since 1975. Another NASA report indicated that temperatures are likely rise more quickly than predicted in earlier climate projections.
Global warming may not be causing recent outbreaks of cold weather but if they are not connected, Americans still think climate change is cause for concern.
By Chester Davis