Americans More Confused About Climate Than Ever

Image courtesy of Gallup.

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


How effective has the resurgence of the climate denial machine been? Look no farther than the latest Gallup poll on American attitudes on global warming, which found significant declines in public concern about the topic.

Forty-eight percent of Americans now believe that the “seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated,” up from 41 percent last year and 31 percent in 1997. “[T]he percentage of Americans who now say reports of global warming are generally exaggerated is by a significant margin the highest such reading in the 13-year history of asking the question,” Gallup notes.

The majority of Americans still believe that global warming is happening, and 53 percent say the effects of the problem have already begun or will do so in a few years. But the number of people who think climate change is caused by human activity has dropped – from 61 percent in 2003 to 50 percent today. The percentage of people who believe that global warming is “going to affect them or their way of life in their lifetimes” has dropped to 32 percent, down from 40 percent in 2008.

The results clearly show the American public’s skewed perception of climate science, thanks in large part to the “scandals” generated in recent months by climate skeptics. Now, only about half of Americans say that “most scientists believe that global warming is occurring,” a drop from 65 percent in recent years. A full 36 percent of Americans think that scientists are “unsure about global warming,” and another 10 percent say that most scientists believe global warming isn’t occurring. In reality, the consensus is pretty darn clear among climate experts.

I’m not going to get too bent out of shape about this new poll, as Americans have been confused about climate for a quite a while, and at the same time, they’ve grown more supportive of efforts to address it. But this one is a good reminder of how much havoc the skeptics have wreaked in a very short time.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.