According to a new survey by researchers at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University, three out of four Americans believe that the Earth has been gradually warming as the result of human activity and want the government to institute regulations to stop it.
With funding from the National Science Foundation the survey was conducted by Woods Institute Senior Fellow Jon Krosnick, a professor of communication and of political science at Stanford. The results are based on telephone interviews conducted from June 1-7 with 1,000 randomly selected American adults.
“Several national surveys released during the last eight months have been interpreted as showing that fewer and fewer Americans believe that climate change is real, human-caused and threatening to people”, Krosnick said. “But our new survey shows just the opposite.”
When respondents in the June 2010 survey were asked if the Earth’s temperature probably had been heating up over the last 100 years, 74 percent said yes. Krosnick said:”Our surveys reveal a small decline in the proportion of people who believe global warming has been happening, from 84 percent in 2007 to 74 percent today”. “Statistical analysis of our data revealed that this decline is attributable to perceptions of recent weather changes by the minority of Americans who have been skeptical about climate scientists.”
In terms of average Earth temperature, 2008 was the coldest year since 2000, Krosnick said. “Scientists say that such year-to-year fluctuations are uninformative, and people who trust scientists therefore ignore this information when forming opinions about global warming‘s existence,” he added. “But people who do not trust climate scientists base their conclusions on their personal observations of nature. These ‘low-trust’ individuals were especially aware of the recent decline in average world temperatures; they were the ones in our survey whose doubts about global warming have increased since 2007.”
According to Krosnick, this explanation is especially significant, because it suggests that the recent decline in the proportion of people who believe in global warming is likely to be temporary. “If the Earth’s temperature begins to rise again, these individuals may reverse course and rejoin the large majority who still think warming is real,” he said.
The June’s 2010 survey highlights the fact that 86 percent of respondents said they wanted the federal government to limit the amount of air pollution that businesses emit, and 76 percent favored government limitations on greenhouse gas emissions generated by businesses. Only 14 percent said that the United States should not take action to combat global warming unless other major industrial countries like China and India do so as well.
Among other survey results:
• 78 percent opposed taxes on electricity to reduce consumption, and 72 percent opposed taxes on gasoline;
• 84 percent favored the federal government offering tax breaks to encourage utilities to make more electricity from water, wind power and solar power;
• Four out of 5 respondents favored government requiring or offering tax breaks to encourage the production of cars that use less gas (81 percent), appliances that use less electricity (80 percent) and homes and office buildings that require less energy to heat and cool (80 percent);
• Only 18 percent said that policies to reduce global warming would increase unemployment.