From: Ben Block, Worldwatch Institute, More from this Affiliate
Published October 27, 2009 03:39 PM

U.S. Public Still Unconvinced on Climate Change

Fewer U.S. citizens consider climate change to be a "serious threat" compared to two years ago, even as scientific evidence demonstrates that the problem has become increasingly severe, according to a recent nationwide public opinion poll.

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey suggests that climate change campaigns are not adequately explaining the latest science to an audience that needs to reduce emissions substantially in order for the world to avoid the most damaging effects of global warming.


The survey, conducted between September 30 and October 4 among a sample of 1,500 telephone respondents, suggests that 65 percent of the U.S. public considers climate change to be a "very serious" or "somewhat serious" problem. The results mark a decline in public concern from January 2007, when 77 percent of participants told a Pew survey that they were seriously concerned about climate change.

The difference could be a matter of statistics. However, U.S. residents have been subjected to many confusing messages this year from conservative media, fossil fuel-dependent industries, and politicians who question the scientific certainty of climate change. The rise in contrarian voices coincides with the passage of a cap-and-trade bill by the U.S. House of Representatives and consideration of similar legislation by the Senate.

Intense political debate, coupled with colder weather in recent months, may have led to the increased doubt about the climate science, said Riley Dunlap, an environmental sociologist at Oklahoma State University.

"We're starting to see the effect of this constant barrage of [climate change] denial penetrating society," Dunlap said. "There is a constant belittling of climate change."

The latest peer-reviewed science, meanwhile, indicates that many dangers associated with climate change are occurring more rapidly than previous studies predicted. Glacial retreat, ice sheet melt, and sea-level rise are intensifying, according to a recent U.N. Environment Programme report.

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