Are Americans Climate Dummies?


First, the good news: the majority of Americans understand that global warming is happening. That means that, despite all the attacks on climate science in the past year, the number of US citizens who recognize this problem has pretty much held firm. About half of those surveyed by researchers at Yale University recognized that human activity is causing the planet to heat up.

But that’s not because Americans are particularly well-informed about climate science—or science in general, it seems. The same study found that 63 percent believe that global warming is happening. But a smaller percentage—57 percent—knows what the greenhouse effect is. An even smaller segment, 43 percent, made the connection between the build up of carbon dioxide and the greenhouse effect.

It gets more frightening. Via CBC News:

The poll reveals that almost half of Americans—49 per cent—incorrectly believe that the space program contributes to global warming, and that the hole in the ozone layer, toxic wastes, aerosol spray cans, volcanic eruptions, the sun and acid rain also play a role.

I guess there was one redeeming factor for our citizenry polled here: they’d like to know more. Three-quarters of respondents said they would like more information about the subject and that it should be taught in schools. Probably a good idea.

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.