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Majority of Americans confused on climate change basics

Most Americans don’t understand the basics of climate change, according to a new poll by researchers with Yale. The poll found that over half of Americans deserve an ‘F’ on basic understanding of climate science and climate change, while only 1% would receive an ‘A’.

While 63% of Americans say that the globe is warming, only 50% attribute that warmth to human activities, i.e. greenhouse gas emissions. Nineteen percent of those polled stated that the climate was not warming. Fifteen percent believe the world is cooling despite long-term scientific data that shows it is warming.

While most Americans correctly identified emissions from burning fossil fuels and deforestation as causes of climate change, a majority also believed, erroneously, that the hole in the ozone layer, aerosol spray cans, and acid rain contributed to warming temperatures worldwide.

One of the most surprising findings of the poll was that only a quarter of Americans have ever heard of ocean acidification or coral bleaching.

“This study demonstrates that Americans need to learn more about the causes, impacts and potential solutions to global warming,” said study director Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale University. “But it also shows that Americans want to learn more about climate change in order to make up their minds and take action.”
Just over 75% stated they needed more information before “making up their mind” on the issue. The number one source for information about climate change was from television according to the poll.

Three-fourths of respondents said that schools should teach children about climate change, while 68% said they would like to see a government program devoted to climate change education for all Americans.

Until recently the US was the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases—it has been eclipsed by China. However, the US has been slow to tackle climate change: a climate change and energy bill recently failed in the US Senate due to widespread opposition amongst Republicans and some opposing Democrats. The US lags behind Europe and China in the development of green energy sources.

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