Are Americans Climate Dummies?

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


First, the good news: the majority of Americans understand that global warming is happening. That means that, despite all the attacks on climate science in the past year, the number of US citizens who recognize this problem has pretty much held firm. About half of those surveyed by researchers at Yale University recognized that human activity is causing the planet to heat up.

But that’s not because Americans are particularly well-informed about climate science—or science in general, it seems. The same study found that 63 percent believe that global warming is happening. But a smaller percentage—57 percent—knows what the greenhouse effect is. An even smaller segment, 43 percent, made the connection between the build up of carbon dioxide and the greenhouse effect.

It gets more frightening. Via CBC News:

The poll reveals that almost half of Americans—49 per cent—incorrectly believe that the space program contributes to global warming, and that the hole in the ozone layer, toxic wastes, aerosol spray cans, volcanic eruptions, the sun and acid rain also play a role.

I guess there was one redeeming factor for our citizenry polled here: they’d like to know more. Three-quarters of respondents said they would like more information about the subject and that it should be taught in schools. Probably a good idea.

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate