Throughout the country, Americans are noticing something different about the weather. The seasons feel warmer, wildfires seem worse, and floods and hurricanes are more severe.
But when they turn on the news or pick up their newspapers, there is little mention of climate change. There is talk of more intense wildfires coupled with historic droughts and dry conditions, but silence about why. Reporters discuss never-before-seen damage from hurricanes, freakish fire tornados, record breaking temperatures, and increasingly severe storms — but do not mention what is fueling them.
While the media fail to link our changing climate with extreme weather, scientists are quick to draw the connection. But how do Americans understand this relationship? Are they connecting the dots?
To find out, ecoAmerica surveyed a national sample of Americans to identify if and how they connect the weather outside their window to climate change. The following are highlights of the findings. The full report is HERE.
1. Americans who notice severe weather are more likely to attribute it to climate change. These results were most pronounced when Americans experience heat waves (80%). A majority connected an increase in severity of wildfires (75%), floods (73%), hurricanes (69%) and tornados (66%) to climate change.
2. Women and Democrats are more likely than other groups to notice weather and correlate it to climate change. For all of the five types of weather events included in the survey, noticing severe weather, and attributing it to climate change approached or were in majority levels. However, there were notable partisan and gender variations — with women and Democrats by far the most likely to notice more severe weather, and attribute it to a changing climate.
3. Americans see shared responsibility for preparing for extreme weather and climate change. While a majority of Americans feel prepared for a changing climate and more extreme weather, only half are confident that their community is ready. Climate action is about communities — the health and safety of families and friends, and Americans think both local and national leaders bear responsibility.
4. There is a wide range of emotions about severe weather events. People don’t just notice the effects of a changing climate, we experience emotional responses — especially when we hear about how climate is causing others their lives and livelihoods. While some Americans feel hopeless (11%) when they hear these stories, nearly twice as many feel motivated to help (20%).
While the media isn’t making the connection between extreme weather events and climate change, Americans are beginning to make that connection on their own. However, there is room to grow to help key constituencies make the connection, and this starts with communication.
For many, starting this conversation can be a difficult first step to take. To help, ecoAmerica’s Talking Points Series this month offers some quick, simple ways to get the conversation about Extreme Weather and Climate Change going, and to jumpstart climate action in your community.
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