'Global Warming Isn't Happening': Americans' Beliefs In Climate Change Are Becoming Increasingly Skeptical

By Rhonda J. Miller on January 19, 2014 10:19 PM EST

Global Warming
Disbelief in global warming has increased in America according to a new study, "Climate Change in The American Mind," by researchers at Yale University. (Photo: Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock / Rhonda J. Miller)

Disbelief in global warming in on the rise in America, according to researchers at the Yale Project on Climate Change Communiciations.

The number of Americans who do not believe in global warming has risen to 23 percent, up seven percentage points since April 2013, Yale University researchers found in their study, "Climate Change in the American Mind: Americans' Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in November 2013." The findings are based on interviews with 830 adults from Nov. 23 to Dec. 9, 2013. The results were released Jan. 16. "People who prior said they don't know are increasingly saying they don't believe it," Director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication Anthony Leiserowitz told Live Science.

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Researchers divided the responding groups into "Global Warmings Six Americas," based on their climate-related beliefs, attitudes, policy preferences, and behaviors. The categories ranged from "alarmed," meaning those who had the highest belief in global warming, and are the most concerned and most motivated, to "dismissive," consisting of those who had the lowest belief in global warming and were least concerned and least motiviated.

Those categories and the percentage of participants who fell under the headings are: alarmed, 16 percent; concerned, 27 percent; cautious, 21; disengaged, five percent; doubtful, 12 percent; and dismissive, 15 percent. Many who dismissed global warming as a non-issue reported negative emotions about the topic. About 30 percent of that group said they were "disgusted" and 24 percent said they were "angry." 

"This is likely due to their frustration that the topic — which many of them view as hoax — receives so much attention," according to the report. In the group researchers identified as "dismissive" about global warming, 99 percent of them said they are "not very" worried about it. Of those who fell into the group classified as "doubtful," 97 percent said they are "not all" worried about it." Despite the rise in disbelievers, the majority of the Americans surveyed, 63 percent, have held steady since April 2013 in their belief that that the planet is heating up.

More than half (58 percent) of the people who believe global warming is happening said there are "very" or "extremely" sure. About half of that group of believers (47 percent) think the warming is caused by human activity. But despite their concern, many who think it's happening doubt that global warming will be reduced. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) said their doubt is based on the belief that "corporations care only about their profits and not global warming," according to the report. And 61 percent of those who believe it's happening think another big obstacle is that "people are too greedy and selfish to reduce global warming." The remainder of Americans surveyed said they just "don't know" whether or not the planet is getting warmer. That group of people who aren't sure dropped six percentage points, from 20 to 14, since April 2013.

One explanation for the increase in people who don't believe it's happening could be the media coverage of the International Panel on Climate Change report in September, Leiserowitz told Live Science. The report focused on the human activity causing climate change. Much of the media coverage, however, looked at whether there had been a "pause" in global warming. The coverage could have nudged people on the fence to decide it's less likely, he said.

However, a draft of the newest IPCC report leaked to media and due to be edited and published in April says delaying action on global warming will increase costs and reduce the chances of dealing with the worst effects, The Guardian reported. The final draft of the IPCC report, which is the third since 2007 in a series on the status of climate change and prospects for a solution, says global warming will continue to increase unless countries shift quickly to clean energy, and substantially cut emissions.

(Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

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