Like most big issues, the news about changing attitudes toward climate change has been overshadowed in the United States by coverage of the Mueller investigation, of accusations of Russian meddling in our elections and of the #MeToo movement.
But that doesn’t mean important changes aren’t happening.
Americans now overwhelmingly agree that climate change is happening and affecting their lives. According to the Yale Center on Climate Change Communication, which studies how messaging shapes people’s views on climate change and policies for coping with it, more than five times as many Americans believe that climate change is occurring than do not. Further, 62 percent now believe that climate change is primarily the result of human activity, and nearly half of Americans say they have personally experienced the effects of global warming.
And unlike many issues, such as support for building a wall along our southern border to curtail the flow of illegal immigration, belief in climate change and in the need to do something about it no longer appears to be something that leaves Republicans and Democrats hopelessly divided.
In fact, the biggest change is in the attitudes of Republicans on the issue. Between 2015 and November 2018, the share of Republicans who said they believe in climate change grew from 49 percent to 64 percent, according to a Monmouth University poll. It’s interesting that the biggest shift in Republican attitudes on the issue occurred during the first year of the Trump administration. (President Donald Trump has long insisted climate change is a hoax, beginning with a November 2012 Tweet in which he wrote that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”)
What experience has shown us is that our personal beliefs often outweigh scientific fact in shaping people’s opinions, but that consistent reporting of scientific fact ultimately can change public opinion on even the most difficult topics.
And in that there is hope.
— Bob Unger