A recent poll conducted by the Associated Press (AP) and NORC revealed that nearly two-thirds of Americans who have experienced extreme weather events now believe that manmade climate change is responsible. This represents a 10-point increase in such beliefs since April. The poll results, released on Monday, highlight the growing concern among the American public over the impact of climate change.
In April, only 54% of respondents blamed human activity for extreme weather events they had personally experienced in recent years. However, by September, that figure had risen to 64%. This significant increase in belief coincides with the hottest summer ever recorded in the Northern Hemisphere, as confirmed by the World Meteorological Organization. The scorching temperatures and extreme weather conditions experienced in the summer likely played a role in shaping public perception.
Moreover, the poll also indicated a rise in the number of Americans who have encountered extreme weather events. The percentage of respondents who reported experiencing at least one extreme weather event, such as drought, extreme heat, severe storms, wildfires, flooding, or tornadoes, increased from 79% in April to 87% in September. Specifically, the number of individuals who had experienced extreme heat in the past five years surged from 55% in April to 74% in September.
The summer of 2023 was particularly harsh, with Canada’s devastating wildfires spreading thick, foul-smelling orange smoke that blanketed areas of the United States. This caused temporary declines in air quality and impacted the daily lives of many Americans. Six out of 10 poll respondents stated that the wildfire smoke had affected them to some extent.
The poll also highlighted the political divide in beliefs regarding climate change. While 93% of self-identified Democrats who experienced extreme weather attributed it to climate change, only 48% of Republicans agreed. This disparity underscores the differing views on the causes and effects of climate change among the two major political parties.
Interestingly, the survey revealed that personal experience of extreme weather events had a greater influence on Americans’ beliefs about climate change than scientific evidence. Around 52% of respondents admitted that their views were shaped by their personal encounters with meteorological chaos, compared to only 10% who attributed their beliefs to politicians’ statements on the issue. This finding suggests that firsthand experiences have a greater impact on public opinion than external influences.
Overall, the poll reflects an increase in concern among Americans regarding climate change. While half of the respondents reported being more worried about the issue in the past year, the majority of this group consisted of Democrats. In contrast, only 27% of Republicans expressed increased concern. Additionally, Americans over the age of 60 were more likely to report heightened worry about climate change.
The poll results demonstrate that the public’s perception of climate change is shifting, with more individuals attributing extreme weather events to human activity. The combination of personal experiences and record-breaking weather patterns has played a significant role in shaping these beliefs. As the effects of climate change continue to intensify, it is likely that public concern will only increase further.