Over 70 percent of Americans: climate change worsening extreme weather

Jeremy Hance
October 10, 2012

Wind turbine in Minnesota, U.S. Photo by: Tiffany Roufs.
Wind turbine in Minnesota, U.S. Photo by: Tiffany Roufs.

According to a new poll, 74 percent of Americans agree that climate change is impacting weather in the U.S., including 73 percent who agreed, strongly or somewhat, that climate change had exacerbated record high temperatures over the summer. The findings mean that a large majority of Americans agree with climatologists who in recent years have found increasingly strong evidence that climate change has both increased and worsened extreme weather events.

In the poll the majority of Americans say climate change likely worsened a number of recent extreme weather events, including 71 percent for the current drought and last year's unusually mild winter; 70 percent for this year's heatwave-rocked spring; and 64 percent for the derecho, an especially fierce and long-lasting windstorm, that hit the northeast in June.

"Americans have just experienced two years of record-setting extreme weather events, and are increasingly connecting extreme weather in the United States to global warming," explains Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale University. The poll of over a thousand adults was conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.

Along with extreme weather events, recent years have also seen a dramatic upswing in climatologists exploring the link between climate change and weather. A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found that between 1981 and 2010 the occurrence of extreme heatwaves had increased by 50 to 100 times. Climate change was the only statistically logical explanation behind the incredible jump in extreme heatwaves, according to the scientists. Another study found that a recent drought in Texas was made 20 times more likely due to climate change, while an incredibly warm winter in Britain was made 60 times more likely.

Despite these findings, and the fact that most Americans accept the science, the current presidential campaigns have been largely silent on both sides regarding climate change. Barack Obama has rarely mentioned climate change since a failed attempt to pass climate legislation, although he has been consistent in expressing the climate change is a global threat. Mitt Romney, who accepted the science behind climate change while governor, has recently questioned whether or not the global rise in temperatures is manmade, i.e. connected to greenhouse gas emissions, even though the vast majority of scientists say this is so. A Romney surrogate, Oren Cass, has since said that the ex-governor does not see reducing greenhouse carbon as a legitimate concern for the federal government. Romney has also made ending subsidies to green energy companies apart of his campaign.

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Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (October 10, 2012).

Over 70 percent of Americans: climate change worsening extreme weather.