In the wake of a bizarre array of extreme weather events throughout the United States, a study from Yale University has found that the majority of Americans have finally realized that yes, global warming is a problem. This spring’s unseasonably warm weather had many people — including Oprah and Obama — concerned, and from Hurricane Irene’s path along the east coast to the Mississippi River floods a year ago, weird weather events had 69 percent of participants agreeing that global warming is the culprit.
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The study, “Extreme Weather, Climate & Preparedness in the American Mind,” is a remarkably comprehensive assessment of public awareness and experience of extreme weather and natural disasters. Additionally, it explored levels of preparedness and attitudes towards climate change. As it turns out, most of us have experienced some form of extreme weather in the last year and over 50 percent believe that such weather events could cause a natural disaster in their communities in the next year.
As the threat of further natural disasters puts us on edge, people appear to be looking more analytically at recent events. Anthony A. Leiserowitz of Yale University, one of the researchers who commissioned the new poll, told the New York Times, “Most people in the country are looking at everything that’s happened; it just seems to be one disaster after another after another… People are starting to connect the dots.” So when droughts, heat waves or flooding happens at home, it appears we’re less likely to view climate change as a “theory” confined to melting glaciers and polar bears.
As awareness increases, the poll found a high receptiveness to learning more about global warming. In a particularly encouraging section of the survey, 57 percent would be interested in “learning what my favorite TV weathercaster has to say about global warming,” but only 31 percent could recall such an instance happening more than once or twice this year. If contrasted with the behavior of some politicians in recent months, with repeated instances that carbon emissions are not a subject of concern, then we see some evidence that the climate change-deniers are falling out of step with a public ready and willing to learn about global warming.
350.org will begin a significant push for greater understanding of climate change and extreme weather with their “Connect the Dots” campaign, a series of rallies set to take place on May 5. “My sense from around the country and the world is that people definitely understand that things are getting freaky,” said William E. McKibben, the founder of 350.org told the New York Times.
56 percent of those who participated could recall unusual weather events in their local area in the past 12 months. 38 percent, however, could not recall any unusual weather events that occurred elsewhere in the United States in the past 12 months. With 1,008 participants in the study, we do have to wonder where those 38 percent are?
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