Americans are convinced climate change is a serious problem caused by humans

Americans are growing more convinced than ever that climate change is having an impact on our world, and the issue is becoming a more important part of their lives. That is the conclusion of a new report by the Yale Program on Climate Communication and George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, based on a survey of Americans nationwide.

About 72 percent of Americans now say that climate change is important to them, an increase of 9 percentage points since last March, and a 16-point increase since March 2015.

In addition, the number of Americans convinced that climate change is mostly caused by humans has spiked to 62 percent, a jump of 8 points in just one year.

“My bet is that we’ve entered a new era of public concern about climate change” says Dr. Ed Maibach, director of the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.

An October 2018 CBS News poll found a similar result, with 61 percent of Americans saying global warming is human-caused, up 7 percent from April 2018. Four years earlier, an AP-GFK poll found only 33 percent were extremely or very confident that was true.

Professor Michael B. Gerrard, the director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, is cautiously encouraged. “Sometimes public opinion shifts quickly, as it did with smoking and same-sex marriage,” he said.

Maibach feels that may be happening now with climate change. “We appear to have reached an inflection point in that half of Americans now see climate change as happening here, now, to us — and they feel that they and/or members of their family will be harmed by it.”

Climate change has often been thought of as a distant problem whose impact might appear decades or centuries in the future. But recent studies show that extreme weather over the past few years has been supercharged by climate change. People are connecting the dots through their real-life experience.

“More Americans are now personally experiencing concrete, harmful impacts from climate change with their own eyes. People are more convinced when they learn experientially than when they learn analytically,” says Maibach.

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