Fewer Americans worried by climate change: survey

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Al Gore’s pitch for saving the planet from global warming appears to be falling on increasingly deaf ears, a Zogby Interactive survey shows.

Steam and other emissions are seen coming from a power station in Wollongong, some 89 km (55 miles) south of Sydney November 17, 2009. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

Nearly half of Americans, or 49 percent, say they are only slightly or not at all concerned about climate change, while 35 percent are somewhat or highly concerned, the survey shows.

Zogby’s latest poll shows those with more relaxed views on the issue jumped 10 percentage points from 2007, when 39 percent said they were slightly or not at all concerned. In 2007, 48 percent said they were somewhat or highly concerned.

The survey’s results emerge as the United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen heads into its final week, amid warnings that global warming could eventually melt the polar ice caps, raising sea levels and causing drought and other severe weather conditions.

Gore, a former U.S. vice president, helped raise awareness of climate change by narrating the hit documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” which won two Academy Awards in 2007.

“Well, I think people respond to what is going on around them. In the last couple of years, especially in the Eastern part of the United States, weather patterns have been quite normal,” said Stephen Harned, executive director for the National Weather Association, and a 36-year veteran of the National Weather Service.


Harned, who cited regular snowy winters and particularly cool summers, said there could be a shift in perception because the weather seems to not be getting warmer.

“But I think the record is pretty firm that global air temperatures are increasing,” Harned said. “The amount of carbon dioxide in the air is also increasing.”

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Global warming refers to an increase of average temperatures on the earth’s near-surface air and oceans, which many experts believe is caused by higher concentrations of greenhouse gases caused mainly by the burning of fossil fuels.

“It’s a fact that there has been warming of the earth’s atmospheric temperatures in the past few years,” Harned said.

However, Harned explains that near-term doomsday scenarios are far-fetched. He said sea levels will not rise dramatically over the next 10 years, even though glaciers worldwide have shrunk in many locations.

“But in the next 50 to 100 years -- and hopefully I won’t be here -- that is what’s going to happen,” Harned stressed. “And that is where the controversy comes into play.”

Many Americans seem unworried, the survey showed.

The percentage not at all concerned about global climate change rose to 37 percent from 27 percent in 2007, while only 20 percent said they were highly concerned, compared with 37 percent in 2007.

The survey found that 44 percent believe the United States should act to reduce energy use if it means major lifestyle changes.

Harned said more renewable green sources of energy are needed and that people need to live more energy-conscious lives because “worldwide there is going to be more and more of us.”

The survey also showed 68 percent of Republicans and 46 percent of political independents said they are not at all concerned about global climate change and global warming, compared to just 7 percent of Democrats.

The interactive survey of 3,072 adults nationwide was conducted December 8-10. A sampling of Zogby International’s online panel, which is representative of adult Americans, was invited to participate. The margin of error is plus or minus 1.8 percentage points.

Editing by Eric Walsh