Climate Change Confuses Most Americans

One of the issues we have been profiling here at climateshifts is the growing gulf between what the science of climate change is telling us, and what the public and politicians understand.  Putting aside the criminal activities associated with the spin doctors of special interest, delivering and gaining impact on the basis of this expert knowledge is becoming more and more urgent.  Here is a recent survey undertaken by Yale University which exposes these problems within the American population.

PC magazine, Oct 18 2010, by  Leslie Horn

Americans don’t understand climate change, a Yale study has shown. Of the 63 percent of U.S. adults that believe that global warming is happening, only one in 10 say they are “very well informed” on the issue.

Yale’s Americans’ Knowledge of Climate Change report takes a look at what people know about global warming and climate change, including its impacts, causes, and possible solutions. Funded by the National Science Foundation, it surveyed a demographic mix of 2,030 American adults.

It “found important gaps in knowledge and common misconceptions about climate change and the earth system. These misconceptions lead some people to doubt that global warming is happening or that human activities are a major contributor, to misunderstand the causes and therefore the solutions, and to be unaware of risks,” the report said.

Half of Americans recognize that global warming is a result of human actions. Fifty-seven percent understand that the greenhouse effect describes gasses that trap heat in the atmosphere, and 45 percent know that carbon dioxide traps heat from the surface of the Earth. Just a quarter know about coral bleaching and ocean acidification, the study revealed.

Not many Americans would make the grade if tested on climate change. Just 8 percent know enough to score an A or a B, 40 percent would make a C or D, and 52 percent would fail.

That said, most Americans see that car emissions and the burning of fossil fuels are part of the issue. Seventy-five percent of people surveyed said they would like to know more about it, and 68 percent would like to see climate change education in schools.

3 thoughts on “Climate Change Confuses Most Americans

  1. I think two of the scariest stats are that 1 in 5 Americans believe that global warming is NOT happening and 1 in 10 is extremely or very sure of that belief.

  2. The fact that over 50% of respondents want to see climate change education in schools is a ray of hope. I doubt you would see such a reception to the theory of evolution. Ironically, Americans misunderstanding of both subjects is due in part to the lack of a fundamental of understanding of what science is and what it is not.

  3. I think that is a glimmer of hope, Mark. Needless to say, Australians are very similar and there are similar obstacles in getting the urgent message across.

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