We all know that many Americans don't believe the 'climate change hoax' anymore.
We see polls that indicate as much on a regular basis. We read numerous articles showing that fewer and fewer Americans are convinced. Presidential candidates regularly dismiss the very notion of climate change.
According to Pew Research, the number of Americans who believe the earth is warming dropped a whopping 20 percentage points in just five years – from a 2006 level of 79% to just 59% in 2010.
As if to reinforce these findings, Elizabeth Rosenthal's recent article in the New York Times poses the question “Whatever happened to global warming?”
And Republican Presidential candidates, of course, have stepped up to the plate:
Michelle Bachmann: “Carbon dioxide is not a harmful gas; it is a harmless gas”
Herman Cain: “I don't believe ... global warming is real.”
Ron Paul: “ ...bogus claims about climate dangers should not be used as a justification to further limit the American people's freedom.”
Rick Santorum: “To me, this is an opportunity for the left to create — it's really a beautifully concocted scheme because they know that the Earth is gonna cool and warm.”
Mitt Romney: “Do I think the world's getting hotter? Yeah, I don't know that, but I think that it is. I don't know if it's mostly caused by humans ... What I'm not willing to do is spend trillions of dollars on something I don't know the answer to.”
Then there's my personal favorite, Rick Perry: “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling in to their projects. I think we're seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”
And like our Republican Presidential candidates, Americans just aren't buying it.
Or are they?
Stanford University, in association with Ipsos and Reuters, has just published a new poll that explores this very issue. The poll compares American attitudes in 2011 to those same attitudes just one year ago. The results will surprise many.
When asked the very specific question “You may have heard about the idea that the world's temperature may have been going up slowly over the past 100 years. What is your personal opinion on this - do you think this has probably been happening, or do you think it probably has not been happening?”, we can now see that Americans overwhelmingly accept the fact that the climate is changing.
- More than 82% of Americans believe that the world’s temperature has been going up in the past 100 years – an increase of nearly 7.5 percentage points in just one year.
- More than 71% believe that global warming is partly or mostly caused by things people do.
- And more than 72% believe that the world’s temperature will go up in the next 100 years.
The news isn't all good.
Although 91% of Democrats, and 84% of Independents are willing to listen to the scientists on this issue, only 66% of Republicans are. And while only 12% of Democrats believe that climate change is due solely to natural causes, more than 44% of Republicans believe that.
Stanford's poll also shows that Americans' ideas on this topic are hardening – those that accept the science are increasingly likely to be 'very/extremely' sure that the science is right, just as those who don't accept the science are increasingly likely to be 'very/extremely' sure that it is wrong.
You'll have to dig through the details of the poll to see this (you can do that here), but it's clear that climate change is becoming a highly polarizing issue in this country.
(Most of you reading this article already knew that.)
So here's the bottom line: while the voices of those who don't accept the reality of human-caused climate change may be growing louder, that size of that group (as a whole) is shrinking.
Americans are still listening to the facts, and more of us are rejecting the spin.
It's good news for everyone. Now all we need is for Congress to catch up.