CONSEQUENCES OF GLOBAL WARMING

AMERICAN’S PERCEPTIONS OF GLOBAL WARMING IMPACTS

Academic researchers, NASA and NOAA scientists, and the international scientific community through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have linked global warming to various potential consequences, including sea level rise, changes to storms, droughts, and wildfires. 

Does the American public know of these possibilities?

Indeed, a substantial majority of Americans have been noticing. They said they already have seen, either in person or via media, the consequences of global warming (68% in 2015, see the figure below).

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But few people are seeing impact on their lives. Almost no one in January 2015 said that global warming has helped them (9%), and a bit more believe it has hurt them (34%) personally (see the two figures below).

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WHAT DID PEOPLE NOTICE?

In December 2013, people who said they already had seen global warming consequences were asked an open-ended question: “What effects of global warming have you seen?” The most common responses were natural disasters, warmer climate, and iceberg effects (see the figure below).

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PERCEPTIONS OF CHANGING WEATHER

According to some accounts, the number of dramatic, unusual, or extreme weather events (e.g., hurricanes, blizzards) has increased in recent years (1). A majority of Americans have perceived such an increase.  The proportion of Americans who have believed that global weather patterns had been more unstable during the last three years than in the three years before ranged from a high of 70% in 2006 to a low of 54% in 2009 and was at 61% in 2018.

 


Question wording for all years can be found here.

DROUGHTS, SEVERE STORMS, AND SEA LEVEL RISE

A majority of Americans predicted that global warming will cause more droughts, as seen in the figure below. In 2015, 54% reported that they believe global warming had been causing more droughts.

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An even larger majority of 71% in 2013 said they believed global warming will cause storms to be more damaging, as shown in the figure below.

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A similarly large majority of people (73%) in 2013 believed that global warming will cause sea level rise (see figure below).

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GLOBAL WARMING: HURT OR HELP?

A majority of Americans thought that global warming will be harmful to future generations. A large majority (74%) in 2018 said global warming will hurt generations to come at least a moderate amount. In 2010 and 2013 that number was as high as 80% (see the figure below).

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Despite the large majority viewing global warming as harmful to future generations, only a small majority said they anticipate it will hurt them personally (54% in 2015), as shown in the figure below.

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Question wording can be found here.

In fact, a small minority (15% in 2015) said that global warming will help them at least a moderate amount (see figure below).

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References

(1) Bradford, A. (2014). “Effects of Global Warming,” Live Science. http://www.livescience.com/37057-global-warming-effects.html

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