Proportion of Americans Alarmed About Climate Change Has Doubled in Just Five Years

Illustration for article titled Proportion of Americans Alarmed About Climate Change Has Doubled in Just Five Years
Photo: Getty

After a few years of being buffeted by hurricanes, wildfires, record heat, torrential rain, and basically every other type of weather calamity, Americans are coming around to climate change being a real concern.


New polling results released by Yale and George Mason universities show that nearly 60 percent of Americans are alarmed or concerned about climate change, representing a new high water mark over the past six years of regular polling. At the same time, the number of climate deniers has plummeted as the impacts of climate change become harder to ignore.

The results are based on a suite of polling conducted in December 2018, the end of yet another terrible year of wildfires and hurricanes and the fourth hottest year ever recorded for the globe. Researchers at those universities have spent years developing what they call the Six Americas. By polling people on their “climate change beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors,” they’re able to plunk them into one of six broad buckets that range from alarmed to dismissive.

The December polling shows that 29 percent of Americans are now “alarmed” about climate change, more than double where things stood in 2013 and the biggest percentage jump of any category. The portion of Americans who are concerned about climate change is up to 30 percent, up one percent from 2013. Combined, the two have never made up a larger chunk of Americans.

In comparison, the share of Americans who are dismissive or doubtful have contracted.

Illustration for article titled Proportion of Americans Alarmed About Climate Change Has Doubled in Just Five Years
Image: Yale and George Mason

Ed Maibach, the head of the George Mason Center on Climate Change Communication, spoke to Earther last month about other polling results and said that some of the shift happening is likely be tied to the weather-related destruction, as well as the receding tide of climate denial propaganda.


How Americans want to deal with climate change is a whole other story. Different polling last month showed Americans aren’t quite ready to pony up for paying for clean energy, though the costs of doing so are far cheaper than the ravages of climate change. But some of that may be due to a generational gap. Data for Progress, a progressive think tank, recently showed that millennials support a Green New Deal and raising taxes to stop fossil fuel use by a roughly 30-point margin. That’s not exactly surprising, since millennials will suffer greater consequences of climate change than their older peers, and have been more screwed by the economic system that’s allowed the problem to blow up. But if the new Yale and George Mason polling is any indication, more support for radical climate policies might not be so far out of reach.

Managing editor at Earther, writing about climate change, environmental justice, and, occasionally, my cat.


Dense non aqueous phase liquid

Opinions seem better, but kinda same as it ever was.

Gallop did an interesting poll ten years ago looking at views from 1998 to 2008 (the late Clinton and Bush years). Here’s the write up:

Climate-Change Views: Republican-Democratic Gaps Expand

A “clear and present danger” or “the bear’s going to eat me” type question as an example of the Gallup poll:

Between 98 and 08 millennials were being driven around all over the place for soccer practice and participation trophy award ceremonies. They should have been reading climate books instead.