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Do Americans understand that global warming is harmful to human health?

Global warming has significant negative consequences for human health, with some groups at greater risk than others. The extent to which the public is aware of these risks is unclear; the limited existing research has yielded different findings. Our new peer-reviewed paper describes Americans' awareness of the health effects of global warming, levels of support for government funding and action on the issue, and trust in different information sources. We also investigate the discrepancy in previous research results based on open- versus closed-ended questions.

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Five psychology insights to engage the public

We are pleased to announce a new peer-reviewed article by Sander van der Linden, Edward Maibach and Anthony Leiserowitz entitled Improving public engagement with climate change: Five “best practice” insights from psychological science appearing today in Perspectives on Psychological Science.

President Obama recently signed an executive order encouraging the federal government to use insights from behavioral science to better serve the American people. In this paper, we distill years of psychological research to identify five lessons that policy-makers can use to engage the general public on the issue of climate change and promote public support for climate policies:

1. The human brain privileges experience over analysis
2. People are social beings who respond to group norms
3. Out of sight, out of mind: Reduce psychological distance
4. Framing the big picture: Nobody like losing but everyone likes gaining
5. Playing the long-game: Tapping the potential of human motivation

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Analysis of a 119-country survey predicts global climate change awareness and concern

We are pleased to announce an article published today in Nature Climate Change: "Predictors of public climate change awareness and risk perception around the world."

Our research reveals for the first time what the world thinks about climate change and why. Using data from the 2007-2008 Gallup World Poll, conducted in 119 countries, researchers identified the factors that most influence climate change awareness and risk perception for 90 percent of the world's population.

The contrast between developed and developing countries was striking: In North America, Europe and Japan, more than 90 percent of the public is aware of climate change. But in many developing countries relatively few are aware of the issue, although many do report having observed changes in local weather patterns.

Overall, we found that about 40 percent of adults worldwide have never heard of climate change. This rises to more than 65 percent in some developing countries, like Egypt, Bangladesh and India.

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Simple Messages Increase Understanding of the Climate Change Consensus

We are pleased to announce a newly published article:  Simple Messages Help Set the Record Straight about Scientific Agreement on Human-Caused Climate Change: The Results of Two Experiments. 

Human-caused climate change is happening; nearly all climate scientists are convinced of this basic fact according to surveys of experts and reviews of the peer-reviewed literature. Yet, among the American public, there is widespread misunderstanding of this scientific consensus. In this paper, we report results from two experiments, conducted with national samples of American adults, that tested messages designed to convey the high level of agreement in the climate science community about human-caused climate change.

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Yale Climate Opinion Maps

We are pleased to announce a new interactive mapping tool called “Yale Climate Opinion Maps” (YCOM) and an accompanying peer-reviewed paper in the journal Nature Climate Change. This tool allows users to visualize and explore differences in public opinion about global warming in the United States in unprecedented geographic detail.

Most of the action to reduce carbon pollution and prepare for climate change impacts is happening at the state and local levels of American society. Yet elected officials, the media, educators, and advocates currently know little about the levels of public and political will for climate action at these sub-national levels. State and local surveys are costly and time-intensive, and as a result most public opinion polling is only done at the national level. This model for the first time reveals the full geographic diversity of public opinion in the United States at these critical levels of decision making.


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Scientific Consensus on Climate Change as a Gateway Belief

We are pleased to announce a newly published article: "The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change as a Gateway Belief: Experimental Evidence" by Sander van der Linden, Anthony Leiserowitz, Geoffrey Feinberg and Edward Maibach in the journal PLoS ONE.

Our prior survey research has found that only one in ten Americans (9%) correctly understands that there is a scientific consensus about human-caused climate change – i.e., that nearly all climate scientists are convinced that human-caused climate change is happening. Our new article reports the results of an experiment that investigated how people respond when informed about the scientific consensus. 

Our results provide strong evidence for a gateway belief model. On average, being exposed to a “consensus-message” increased study participants’ perceptions of the scientific consensus by 12.8%, and up to as much as 20% in some conditions (compared to a control group). Moreover, this substantial change in the perceived level of scientific consensus caused a positive shift in participants’ belief that climate change is happening, human-caused and a worrisome threat. Changes in these beliefs, in turn, increased support for public action. Importantly, we found these effects for both Democrats and Republicans. 

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Mapping the Shadow of Extreme Weather Experience

We are pleased to announce the publication of a new peer-reviewed article: Howe, P., Boudet, H. Maibach, E., and Leiserowitz, A. (2014) “Mapping the Shadow of Experience of Extreme Weather Events.” Climatic Change 127 (2): 381–89. DOI:10.1007/s10584-014-1253-6.

Climate change will likely increase the frequency and/or intensity of certain extreme weather events, and perceived experience with extreme weather may influence climate change beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.

In this paper we investigated what factors lead people to report experiencing extreme weather events, including their proximity to the event, the size, and the duration of the event. We geographically located each respondent from our 2012 national survey, along with the locations of extreme events from the prior year, including droughts, tornados, and hurricanes. We then mapped the areas in which people reported that they had personally experienced these events, which we call the “shadow of experience.”

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Climate Change Education Program Works

We are pleased to announce the publication of a new article that demonstrates the effectiveness of a nationwide climate change education program focused on high schools in the journal Climatic Change.

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Media “Echo Chambers” and Climate Change

We are pleased to announce the recent publication of a new peer-reviewed article: Feldman, L., Myers, T., Hmielowski, J., & Leiserowitz, A. (2014). The mutual reinforcement of media selectivity and effects: Testing the reinforcing spirals framework in the context of global warming. Journal of Communication. DOI:10.1111/jcom.12108

Given the diverse sources of news now available in the U.S., partisans can easily choose news sources that align with their political attitudes. Does the rise of partisan news—on cable, talk radio, and the Internet—allow Americans to insulate themselves in “echo chambers” where they are exposed only to content consistent with their opinions, while shielded from dissenting views? If so, this may reinforce partisans’ existing attitudes, making it increasingly difficult for policymakers and the public to achieve mutual understanding and compromise on the most pressing issues of the day, including climate change.

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The Role of Emotion in Global Warming Policy Support

The journal Risk Analysis recently published our article "The Role of Emotion in Global Warming Policy Support and Opposition." Prior research has found that affect (feelings of good or bad) and affective imagery (associations) strongly influence public support for global warming. This article extends this literature by exploring the separate influence of discrete emotions, like fear, anger, worry, guilt, etc.

Using a nationally representative survey in the United States, this study found that discrete emotions were stronger predictors of global warming policy support than cultural worldviews (egalitarianism, individualism), negative affect, top of mind associations, or socio-demographic variables, including political party and ideology. In fact, 50% of the variance in public support for global warming policies was explained by the emotion measures alone.


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How to communicate the scientific consensus on climate change

We are pleased to announce a newly published article: "How to Communicate the Scientific Consensus on Climate Change: Plain Facts, Pie Charts or Metaphors?" by Sander van der Linden, Anthony Leiserowitz, Geoffrey Feinberg and Edward W. Maibach in the journal Climatic Change. The article is available for download here.

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The Genesis of Climate Change Activism

We are pleased to announce our newly published article: "The genesis of climate change activism: from key beliefs to political action" in the journal Climatic Change

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New Commentary Urges Climate Scientists to "Set the Record Straight"

We just published a commentary in Earth’s Future, a new online, open-access journal published by the American Geophysical Union.  The commentary is entitled: “Climate Scientists Need to Set the Record Straight: There is a scientific consensus that human-caused climate change is happening.”

In the commentary, we argue that the climate science community needs to do more to communicate the scientific consensus because: (a) most Americans don’t know there is a scientific consensus on this point; (b) this lack of awareness undermines people’s engagement in the issue; and (c) research by our team – and others – has shown that simple messages that communicate this basic scientific conclusion are highly effective, especially with political conservatives.

We encourage you to download the commentary and join the effort to set the record straight.

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Climate Change Vulnerability in NW Alaska

The Arctic is on the front lines of climate change. Average temperatures have warmed 2 to 4 times faster than the rest of the world, permafrost literally melts away before your eyes, and many communities already confront forced relocation. We recently published an article examining climate change in this region in The Journal of Coastal Research entitled Integrating Coastal Vulnerability and Community-based Subsistence Resource Mapping in Northwest Alaska. The paper reports results from a multi-year study done in collaboration with four Inupiaq Eskimo villages on the coast of the Chukchi Sea, north of the Bering Strait.

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Shifting Discourses of Climate Change in India

We have a new article in Climatic Change that describes how India's official position at the international climate change negotiations and elite discourses about climate change within India have shifted over time.

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Can people detect changes in their local climate?

The journal Global Environmental Change recently published an article we wrote examining the accuracy of perceptions about local climate conditions and whether they may be influenced by prior beliefs about the reality of global warming.


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American perceptions of hydraulic fracturing

We co-authored an original article using our research on public opinion about fracking, published in the journal Energy Policy.


  • We conducted a survey of Americans' views on hydraulic fracturing in September 2012
  • A majority of Americans have heard little or nothing about hydraulic fracturing.
  • Many Americans do not know if they support/oppose it or are undecided.
  • Those who have made a decision are evenly split between support and opposition.
  • Predictors of support include education, media use and top of mind associations.
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The wisdom of crowds: Predicting a weather and climate-related event

Environmental uncertainty is at the core of much of human activity, ranging from daily decisions by individuals to long-term policy planning by governments. Yet, there is little quantitative evidence on the ability of non-expert individuals or populations to forecast climate-related events. Here we report on data from a 90-year old prediction game on a climate related event in Alaska: the Nenana Ice Classic (NIC). Participants in this contest...

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Willingness to pay and policy-instrument choice for climate change policy in the United States

This paper provides the first willingness-to-pay (WTP) estimates in support of a national climate-change policy that are comparable with the costs of actual legislative efforts in the U.S. Congress. Based on a survey of 2,034 American adults, we find that...

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Global perceptions of local temperature change

It is difficult to detect global warming directly because most people experience changes only in local weather patterns, which are highly variable and may not reflect long-term global climate trends. However, local climate-change experience may play an...

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The relationship between personal experience and belief in the reality of global warming

In this paper, we address the chicken-or-egg question posed by two alternative explanations for the relationship between perceived personal experience of global warming and belief certainty that global warming is happening: Do observable...

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A public health frame arouses hopeful emotions about climate change

Communication researchers and practitioners have suggested that framing climate change in terms of public health and/or national security may make climate change more personally relevant and emotionally engaging to segments of the public who are...

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Willingness to pay and political support for a U.S. national clean energy standard

In 2010 and 2011, Republicans and Democrats proposed mandating clean power generation in the electricity sector. To evaluate public support for a national clean energy standard (NCES), we conducted a nationally representative survey that...

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The legacy of “climategate:” Revitalizing or undermining climate science and policy?

The release of emails from a server at the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) in November 2009 and the following climategate controversy have become a topic for interpretation in the social sciences. This article picks out some of the most...

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The rise of global warming skepticism: Exploring affective image associations

This article explores how affective image associations to global warming have changed over time. Four nationally representative surveys of the American public were conducted between 2002 and 2010 to assess public global warming risk perceptions...

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Weather, Climate, and (Especially) Society

The social sciences—from psychology to sociology, from economics to geography, from anthropology to political science—are now essential to meeting the climate challenge. This in no way discounts the critical value of the natural sciences in their continued...

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Rio+20: An endangered species?

During the third week of June 2012, the United Nations will convene Rio+20, officially known as the UN Summit on Sustainable Development (UNSSD), to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the UN Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de...

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Information seeking about global climate change among parents and their adolescents: The role of risk perceptions and efficacy beliefs

Global climate change is likely to have significant impacts on public health. Effective communication is critical to informing public decision making and behavior to mitigate climate change. An effective method of audience segmentation, the risk perception...

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Support for climate policy and societal action are linked to perceptions about scientific agreement

Although a majority of US citizens think that the president and Congress should address global warming, only a minority think it should be a high priority. Previous research has shown that four key beliefs about climate change—that it is real, human caused...

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Climate on cable: The nature and impact of global warming coverage on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC

This study examines climate change coverage on the three major cable news channels and assesses the relationship between viewership of these channels and beliefs about global warming. Evidence from a content analysis of climate change coverage on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC during 2007 and 2008 demonstrates that Fox takes a more dismissive tone toward climate change than CNN and MSNBC. Fox also interviews a greater ratio of climate change doubters to believers.

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Communication and marketing as climate change-intervention assets: A public health perspective

The understanding that global climate change represents a profound threat to the health and well-being of human and nonhuman species worldwide is growing. This article examines the potential of communication and marketing interventions to...

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Framing peak petroleum as a human health issue: Audience research and participatory engagement

Between December 2009 and January 2010, we conducted a nationally representative telephone survey of US adults (n = 1001; completion rate = 52.9%) to explore perceptions of risks associated with peak petroleum. We asked respondents to assess...

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Attention to science/environment news positively predicts and attention to political news negatively predicts global warming risk perceptions and policy support

Contemporary science and environmental news coverage of global warming increasingly portrays scientific consensus. Political news coverage of global warming, however, typically portrays controversy. We hypothesize that attention to science and...

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Historical and future coastal changes in Northwest Alaska

Kotzebue Sound comprises a large part of the Northwest Arctic Borough (NAB) shoreline. It has a diverse coastal geomorphology. Natural coastal dynamics and global sea-level rise (SLR) are contributing to changes in the erosion and accretion of...

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Peak Oil, Public Health and Climate Change

The American Journal of Public Health just published an article about how Americans respond to framing 'peak oil' as a public health problem. YPCCC Director Anthony Leiserowitz and collaborators Matt Nisbet (American University) and Ed Maibach...

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The science of satire: The Daily Show and The Colbert Report as sources of public attention to science and the environment

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report have attracted much interest in recent years from popular audiences as well as scholars in various disciplines. Both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have been named on Time magazine's list of the...

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Identifying like-minded audiences for climate change public engagement campaigns: An audience segmentation analysis and tool development

In Fall 2008, we conducted a nationally representative survey of American adults (n = 2,164) to identify audience segments for global warming public engagement campaigns. By subjecting multiple measures of global warming beliefs, behaviors, policy...

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Informing an Effective Response to Climate Change

Education and communication are among the most powerful tools the nation has to bring hidden hazards to public attention, understanding, and action. Citizens, governments, and the private sector cannot factor climate change into their decisions...

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Climategate, Public Opinion, and the Loss of Trust

A working paper that examines the impact of Climategate on public perceptions of climate change and climate scientists, drawing on a national survey conducted in December 2009 and January, 2010.  In brief, we found that Climategate had a...

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Finding the teachable moment: An analysis of information-seeking behavior on global warming related websites during the release of The Day After Tomorrow

This paper investigates how the mass media may influence information-seeking behavior through an analysis of how the release of the movie The Day After Tomorrow, a fictional depiction of global warming causing catastrophic natural disasters...

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From Red to Green? Environmental Attitudes and Behavior in Urban China

In June–August 2007, the Horizon Research Consultancy Group, one of the largest survey research companies in China, conducted a survey in 10 major Chinese cities selected to represent a diversity of geography and economic development across the...

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Misinterpretations of the “Cone of Uncertainty” in Florida during the 2004 Hurricane Season

This article reviews the evolution, communication, and differing interpretations of the National Hurricane Center's “cone of uncertainty” hurricane forecast graphic. It concludes with a discussion of this graphic from the perspective of risk...

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Communication and mental processes: Experiential and analytic processing of uncertain climate information

People process uncertainty information in two qualitatively different systems. Most climate forecast communications assume people process information analytically. Yet people also rely heavily on an experiential processing system. Better understanding of...

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Sustainability values, attitudes and behaviors: A review of multi-national and global trends

This review surveys five major efforts to identify and declare values essential to global sustainability; describes empirical trends (as measured by multina- tional and global-scale surveys) in values, attitudes, and behaviors related to human and economic...

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Climate change risk perception and policy preferences: The role of affect, imagery, and values

A national, representative survey of the U.S. public found that Americans have moderate climate change risk perceptions, strongly support a variety of national and international policies to mitigate climate change, and strongly oppose several carbon...

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Do global attitudes and behaviors support sustainable development?

Drawing on the few multinational and quasi-global-scale surveys that have been conducted, this article synthesizes and reviews what is currently known about global attitudes and behavior that will either support or discourage a global sustainability...

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What is sustainable development? Goals, indicators, values and practice

A brief history of the concept, along with the interpretive differences and the common ground in definitions, goals, indicators, values, and practice follows. Taken together, these help explain what is meant by sustainable development.

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American Risk Perceptions: Is Climate Change Dangerous?

This article describes results from a national study (2003) that examined the risk perceptions and connotative meanings of global warming in the American mind and found that Americans perceived climate change as a moderate risk that will...

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The International Impact of The Day After Tomorrow

After climate change reached Hollywood, Hollywood struck back and gave the world Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow, the top-ranking film in the recently created film genre “Global Warming Films.” Anthony Leiserowitz’s article, “Before...

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Before and after The Day After Tomorrow: A U.S. study of climate change risk perception.

The Day After Tomorrow had a significant impact on the climate change risk perceptions, conceptual models, behavioral intentions, policy priorities, and even voting intentions of moviegoers. The film led moviegoers to have higher levels of concern...

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