Is Extreme Weather Changing People’s Minds about Climate Change?

(cross-posted from Sierra club NYC Group blog.)

For several years climate scientists have said that global warning will be accompanied by more extreme weather events, but that you can’t link specific events to global warming. A year ago, Bill McKibbon did just that in a Washington Post Op-Ed piece. Now, more and more Americans seem to be doing the same thing.

This a conclusion of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communications study, “Extreme Weather, Climate and Preparedness in the American Mind.” Based on a survey this past March of a representative sample of 1,008 American adults, it found that fifty-two percent of respondents said they noticed that the weather has been somewhat or much worse over the last few years. Fifty-six and 62 percent of Americans have noticed extreme weather in their local areas and elsewhere in the United States. respectively. These events included extreme winds, rain, and heat; drought; extreme cold and snow; tornado and hurricane; flood; and wildfire. Eighty-two percent of Americans said they had experienced from one to seven or more of these events. Overall, 35 percent of respondents said they had been harmed by extreme weather and 68 percent said they knew someone who had. So, the perception of significantly worse weather is widespread.

A high proportion of respondents nationally linked global warming to extreme weather: Sixty-nine percent of all Americans agreed somewhat or strongly that global warming is affecting US weather. In addition, this view is widely held across regions: Seventy-one percent of respondents in the northeast, Midwest, and west strongly or mostly agreed along with 66 percent of respondents in the south. This is particularly interesting because the south and west are generally more conservative than the northeast, yet there is little difference among the regions.

 

Note 6/10/2012

In this recent presentation, Greg Holland shows that while the number of hurricanes is not increasing, the ratio of class 4&5 hurricanes relative to classes 1&2 has increased since 1975 and argues that it has to do with climate change.

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