After Cold Winter, American Attitudes Chill on Global Warming

Another study suggests Americans' attitudes about climate change vary with the weather.

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After a snowy winter, fewer Americans believe in global warming, a new poll finds.

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A cold winter may have caused Americans to change their beliefs on global warming, a study published Thursday suggests.

As previous polls have shown, Americans' thoughts on climate change seem to vary with the weather. According to a new Yale University poll, 63 percent of Americans believe global warming is happening, a 10 percent drop from the number who believed it was happening last September, when a similar poll found that 70 percent of Americans believed global warming is happening.

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According to the poll, the declines mainly occurred in the Northeast and the South, two areas that were hit with abnormally cold winters. In Washington, D.C., for instance, average temperatures in March 2013 were 13 degrees colder than those in 2012.

 

"Much of the United States experienced an unusually cold March, just before the survey was conducted," the study's authors write. "Prior research has found that personal experience with weather, particularly recent weather, can influence how some people think about global warming."

After the winter, the number of Americans who are "worried" about global warming fell to 37 percent, the lowest proportion since Yale began climate change polling in 2008 and a 12 percent drop since September.

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About a third of Americans believe "there is a lot of disagreement among scientists" about whether global warming is happening. According to a 2010 report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, about 98 percent of scientists studying climate believe global warming is happening and that humans are contributing to it.

"We use an extensive dataset of 1,372 climate researchers and their publication and citation data to show that 97-98 percent of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of [man-made] climate change," that report says. "The relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of [man-made] climate change are substantially below that of the convinced researchers."

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