New Study Shows Americans Connecting Extreme Weather to Climate Change

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More than two-thirds of the American people believe global warming made several recent extreme weather disasters worse, according to a new report released by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.

The report shows that 82 percent of Americans personally experienced one or more types of extreme weather or natural disaster in the past year, and is the first national study to find that a large majority of Americans are now connecting specific extreme weather events to climate change.

The report is part of “Climate Change and the American Mind,” an ongoing effort to understand how Americans conceptualize and respond to climate change.

“Americans may be starting to ‘internalize’ climate change,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. “More than eight of 10 Americans say they personally experienced extreme weather or a natural disaster in the past year and more than a third say they suffered substantial harm. Meanwhile, large majorities of Americans now believe that global warming contributed to several natural disasters last year, including the record-setting warm winter we just experienced.”

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Other key findings:

  • 35 percent of all Americans report they were personally harmed either a great deal or a moderate amount by one or more of these extreme weather events in the past year.
  • By a margin of more than 2 to 1 (52 percent to 22 percent), Americans say the weather in the United States has been getting worse rather than better.
  • A large majority of Americans believe that global warming made several recent extreme weather events worse, including the unusually warm winters of December 2011 and January 2012 (72 percent), record-high summer temperatures in the United States in 2011 (70 percent), the 2011 droughts in Texas and Oklahoma (69 percent), record snowfall in 2010 and 2011 (61 percent), the Mississippi River floods in the spring of 2011 (63 percent) and Hurricane Irene (59 percent).

The survey also asked about Americans’ preparedness for natural disasters. According to Leiserowitz, “The results show that many Americans are not adequately prepared for natural disasters, with many lacking even an emergency supply kit in their homes. The weather-related disasters of the past year underscore just how important it is for the nation to prepare for the impacts of a changing climate.”

In addition to Leiserowitz, principal investigators included Edward Maibach and Connie Roser-Renouf. The report can be read at

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PUBLISHED: April 18, 2012

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