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People are Changing their Minds about Climate Change

Pam Sornson

Posted on May 14, 2019 14:51

1 user

Despite the myriad of misguided assertions that climate change isn't real, people are actually recognizing that facts can't be ignored and are changing their minds to accept both that it exists and that it poses an existential threat to them. What was it that drove the turnaround?

In a word: science. Over the past three years, researchers have tracked people's opinions about the validity of climate change as a real thing, and changes in those opinions, if any, over time. The trend of acceptance across each study was decidedly upward, with more people accepting the reality of climate change as time went on.

  • Monmouth University poll revealed that the overall number of climate change believers rose by 8% between 2015 and 2018, rising from 70% in December 2015 to 78% in November 2018. Almost two-thirds of Republican respondents (64%) now believe in the man-made challenge, up from 49% in 2015, while 92% of Democrats now embrace the climate change reality, up from 85% three years earlier.
  • Yale and George Mason University poll concurred with Monmouth, finding that acceptance of climate change was growing and that Democrats are embracing that reality faster than Republicans. Interestingly, older Americans (65+) are changing their minds faster than any other age group, with 11% shifting to the 'believer' column (compared with only 6% of 18 to 34-year-olds).  

A less than fully scientific (but still credible) Reddit thread entitled, Former climate change deniers, what changed your mind? offers insights into why those people are changing their minds. One surprise is the "fact versus belief" phenomenon. Reddit responder 'chucklesthe2nd' (most likely not his real name) answers for many, apparently, when he notes that his mind changed when he couldn't reconcile the science of climate realities with his family's belief that climate change was a hoax. What finally converted his thinking was learning about the 'feedback loop' created by the release of CO2 into the atmosphere: CO2 heats the air, which causes the release of more CO2, which heats the air even more ....,  and so on. When he extrapolated those consequences to the planet, he realized that something had to be done about it.

Other Reddit responders note that their concerns grew with the rising numbers and severity of significant storms, and the volume of damage done by those storms in areas that had never before experienced those levels of devastation. Their concerns drive, in many cases, their search for more information which leads them to the same consensus of 97% of the world's scientists: According to the global bank of climate data, climate change is happening, and it is caused primarily by human activities.

What remains alarming, however, is the split in the numbers of Americans who think the government should be doing more to alleviate the problem. While 85% of Democrats and 70% of Independents support increased governmental action on the issue, only 51% of Republicans believe it's a government concern. The pain point with this statistic is that the U.S. is the second highest contributor of carbon emissions (behind China), and a federal government failure to impose some form of control over those emissions indicates that the country's volume of toxic emissions will remain high, and perhaps rise higher.  

Pam Sornson

Posted on May 14, 2019 14:51

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