Environment
2:46 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

UM study finds increase in global warming belief

The number of Americans who believe in global warming is once again on the rise, moving from 58 percent in 2010 to 62 percent last year.

That's according to survey results released last month by U of M's Ford School of Public Policy. The survey, conducted in conjunction with the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion and published by the Brookings Institute, shows that a higher percentage of Americans accepted the science of climate change in 2011 than anytime since the fall of 2009.

A University of Michigan press release says that the survey has been conducted for the past four years and until this year's results, researchers had seen a consistent drop in belief starting from a high of 72 percent in fall 2008.

According to the press release:

A key factor influencing Americans' views about global warming is their personal observations about the weather and temperature changes...About half of Americans now point to their personal experiences as the main reasons they believe in global warming, the poll said.

But Barry Rabe, one of the survey's authors, told Michigan Radio's Rebecca Williams last year that people's personal climate observations can just as easily serve to dispel belief in climate change:

We think to some extent, all climate interpretation is local. When we ask people where they get information about climate and how they begin to think about these issues, overwhelmingly the way they respond is to talk about their own experience with weather. How has the last year been, has it been a cooler year, a warmer year, have they seen evidence? If you ask this question in different parts of the country, you might get very different answers...It’s part of the challenge of climate change, it means different things in different parts of the world.

The U of M press release says the survey also looked into the effects of political affiliation and the role of the media in Americans' perceptions of global warming.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom