Public Concern About Climate Change Remains at Record High

COVID-19, mass unemployment, and a lack of news coverage have not caused the issue of climate change to fall out of public consciousness, according to a new survey by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
American public opinion about climate change has remained steady and, in some cases, reached new all-time highs, according to a new nationally representative survey conducted last month by Yale researchers.
 
“Many climate advocates feared that the global pandemic and mass unemployment would cause climate change to fall from public consciousness," said Anthony Leiserowitz, a senior research scientist at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studides and director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communicaiton (YPCCC). “But Americans are increasingly convinced that global warming is a serious threat, even in the midst of these other crises.”
 
For example, Americans’ understanding that climate change is happening has tied the prior all-time high (73 percent) while only 10 percent of Americans believe global warming is not happening.  Likewise, public understanding that global warming is human caused has also matched the all-time high (62 percent).

LACK OF NEWS COVERAGE DOES NOT LESSEN CLIMATE CONCERNS

This is even more remarkable because Americans are hearing about global warming much less often in the media, as COVID-19 and joblessness dominate the news. For example, in November 2019, 35 percent of Americans said they heard about global warming in the media at least once a week. By April 2020, this had dropped 11 percentage points to 24 percent.
 
This suggests that public opinion about climate change has not only increased in recent years, it has also solidified, so it is less affected by swings in media attention. The study also finds that a large majority of Americans are interested in more news stories about global warming, especially stories about climate action.
 
“Americans are moving past wanting to learn about whether or not our climate is changing,” said Ed Maibach, director of George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication. “What they want to know now is how global climate change is affecting their communities, and what our leadersare doing to address it.”

The report includes many other results, including Americans’ risk perceptions and emotional responses, personal and social engagement with the issue, beliefs about how global warming is affecting the weather, worry about local extreme weather events, and adaptation priorities for their state and local governments.
 
PUBLISHED: May 19, 2020
 
Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles posted prior to July 1, 2020, refer to the School's name at that time.

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