About twice a year, Yale University's Project on Climate Change Communication releases a survey assessing how Americans feel about the environmental threat. Today, it released the latest version. We've extracted the four most important graphs.
Yale's summary of the data borders on the triumphant. "Nearly two in three Americans (63%) believe global warming is happening," they write. "Relatively few – only 16 percent – believe it is not" — though the number has dropped, "likely influenced by the relatively cold winter of 2012-13." And: "Those who believe global warming is happening are more certain of their convictions than those who do not." And so on. More Americans think scientists agree global warming is happening. Half of Americans say they're worried about climate change. In all, positive-sounding news for those who are advocating for political action.
The project offers past trends on its data, too. Here, for example, is the graph of Americans' "belief" in the effect, over time.
You can see that 63 percent support, and those the-winter-was-too-cold people that caused that dip. But what's interesting here isn't really the figures. What's interesting is the trend.
We shipped the data over to Excel to do simple trend lines for a number of the most important data points: belief in the fact of climate change, understanding of the cause, how important people considered the issue, and how worried they were about it. We've left out the individual data points here, because the point that's worth making doesn't require them. (And if you're interested, they're in the report.)
Is climate change happening?
Blue is yes; red, no.
What is the cause of climate change?
Blue, humans; red, natural; green, a combination.
How important to you is climate change?
Blue is a combination of "extremely" and "very;" red, a combination of "not very" and "not at all."
How worried are you about climate change?
Blue is a combination of "very" and "somewhat;" red, a combination of "not very" and "not at all."
Again, these are very simple trend lines. But that doesn't really matter. In January of 2010, 57 percent of Americans said climate change was happening; since, we've gone up and down and landed at 63. In January 2010, 20 percent of people said the issue was "very" or "extremely" important; now, that's 21. And in several instances, the trends are getting worse.
In order to get Washington to take political action, environmentalists need to demonstrate urgency. Not there-was-a-massive-storm-that-knocked-out-power-in-Lower-Manhattan-for-a-week urgency, but voters-care urgency. Even more of the former doesn't seem to be resulting in any more of the latter.
Photo: A house destroyed by Sandy. (AP)