Study: 7 in 10 Americans believe in solid evidence of global warming

Dr. Nancy Selover, the state climatologist for Arizona, said there is good science supporting the public’s belief in global warming. (Photo via Creative Commons)

Severe drought affecting many parts of the nation is convincing skeptics of global warming to reconsider their position on the matter.

For the first time since 2008, 7 out of 10 Americans indicate that there is solid evidence of global warming, according to a report from the National Surveys on Energy and Environment. This is a 10 percent increase from last fall and just behind the record 72 percent in 2008. More than 60 percent of those who believe global warming evidence cite severe drought as having a “very large effect” on their stance.

Dr. Nancy Selover, the state climatologist for Arizona, said there is good science supporting the public’s belief in global warming,

“We’re seeing warming in different areas and in some cases we’re not necessarily seeing evidence of extreme events, but continuously warmer temperatures,” she said, adding that drought is not a good indicator of global warming.

“We have cycles of drought that come and go. In the 20th century, we had a 37-year wet period that followed an extremely short dry 10 years,” said Selover, “… and now we’re in a 21-year dry period.”

Regardless of whether drought is proof of climate change, environmentalists are encouraged by the study’s finding of increased acceptance of global warming.

“The misinformation that came out confused some people for a bit, but eventually people figured it out. A lot of that is due to good scientists getting that information out,” said Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter.

“It’s hard to get action if people don’t think there is a problem. No matter what the problem is, you have to acknowledge that there is one. Then, the next step is to figure out the kinds of actions that we can take to address it,” said Bahr.

The report also found:

  • 56 percent of Republicans believe there is solid evidence of global warming, up 9 percent from 2014. 79 percent of Democrats and 69 percent of Independents believe in warming.
  • Of those who believe in global warming, a record 65 percent say they are “very confident” in their belief.
  • Of those doubtful of global warming, a record 34 percent say local weather observation has “no effect” on their views. In previous surveys, “large majorities of Americans who do not believe there is evidence of global warming have pointed to local weather observations as the basis for their position.”
  • Larky Hodges, who speaks to groups about climate change, related the issue to the tobacco industry.

    “You know how long it took people to understand that cigarettes cause cancer. And you know that was all a misinformation campaign. It’s the exact same problem,” said the Ahwatukee resident.

    Hodges said the issue should transcend political affiliations.

    “If you see a flood coming down the road, you’re going to be sandbagging with all of your neighbors whether they’re Democrats or Republicans,” she said. “We should all be in this together and people just have to look past the partisan politics and say what’s best of me and my children.”

    Graphic by Brooke Stobbe/Cronkite News

    Graphic by Brooke Stobbe/Cronkite News