Why are we not taking climate change seriously?

Aug 14, 2014

The flooding event in Detroit fits the global warming pattern, according to reports such as National Climate Assessment.
The flooding event in Detroit fits the global warming pattern, according to reports such as National Climate Assessment.
Credit Michigan Emergency Management & Homeland Security / Flickr

Climate scientists have issued a steady drumbeat of warnings and data pointing to profound changes that have already begun because of climate change.

Yet a survey from the United Kingdom finds that when it comes to climate denial, the United States leads the world. Only 54% of Americans agree that human activity is largely causing the climate change we're currently seeing.

Why is the U.S. the world leader in climate denial? And how can scientists and policymakers convert the "deniers?"

Edward Maibach is a professor and director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Maibach says it basically comes down to one word: politics.

“Some of the political leaders have decided this is something they don’t want to deal with, and the way they have chosen to do so is by denying its reality. And a lot of Americans take the cues from our political leaders,” says Maibach.

Henry Pollack is a professor emeritus of geophysics at the University of Michigan. He agrees that we can seize teachable moments from extreme weather events, such as the recovery from floods Detroit is coping with right now.

*Listen to our interview with Edward Maibach and Henry Pollack above.