Just over one-third of Americans worry "a great deal" about climate change, down one percent from 1989. That despite nearly every other climate change metric — temperatures, sea levels, carbon dioxide concentration, and major storms — continuing to steadily increase.
Gallup released the new data on Friday, noting that Americans show a "low level" of concern about climate change. Gallup's data comes four days after an exhaustive scientific analysis showing that concern about climate change and its effects is more than warranted, immediately.
This is the key graph, and Gallup's description.
Gallup has tracked worry about global warming using this question format since 1989. The percentage of Americans expressing a great deal of worry has varied over that period, partly reflecting major global warming news events along the way. … The current 34% worry is essentially the same as it was in 1989.
That's pretty amazing. Particularly given what has happened with those other metrics:
About a third of a degree higher annually.
At least four centimeters higher.
Major weather disasters
There have been 131 billion-dollar plus weather disasters in the US since 1989. (Data from the NCDC.) These disasters are not all related to climate change, but many — droughts, Hurricane Sandy — were made significantly worse.
Carbon dioxide concentrations
About 50 ppm higher.
But worry about climate change? Stuck. Flat. Gallup, predictably, blames politics.
The issue has become highly politicized in recent years, and that polarization shows up across a number of indicators. … So long as global warming remains a politically charged issue, it will likely lag behind other environmental issues as a public concern.
Here's how worry about climate change varies by political party.
Republicans are more like than not to worry about climate change not at all; Democrats, to worry about it a lot.
That may in part be due to the traditional overlap of older Americans and Republican registration. Gallup wasn't able to provide me with a breakdown of party by age, but a report last month showed that older people were much less likely to think they'd see climate change in their lifetimes. And, while climate change is obviously already affecting the world around us, older people will certainly not experience the even-worse effects that are looming. Here's how worry compared to age in the new report:
Is it possible, then, that as the Boomer population ages, belief among Americans will start to trend up? Maybe. Possibly. But since Americans have already managed to ignore the obvious patterns above, there's certainly reason to be skeptical. Particularly given the indifference to persuasion displayed by many of those who deny that climate change is happening.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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