>Yale Project on Knowledge of Climate Change Across Global Warming’s Six Americas

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From Anthony Leiserowitz, Yale Project on Climate Change Communication

“Today we are pleased to announce the release of a new report entitled “Knowledge of Climate Change Across Global Warming’s Six Americas.” This report draws from a national study we conducted last year on what Americans understand about how the climate system works, and the causes, impacts, and potential solutions to global warming and is available here.

Overall, we found that knowledge about climate change varies widely across the Six Americas – 49 percent of the Alarmed received a passing grade (A, B, or C), compared to 33 percent of the Concerned, 16 percent of the Cautious, 17 percent of the Doubtful, 4 percent of the Dismissive, and 5 percent of the Disengaged. In general, the Alarmed and the Concerned better understand how the climate system works and the causes, consequences, and solutions to climate change than the Disengaged, the Doubtful and the Dismissive. For example:

· 87% of the Alarmed and 76% of the Concerned understand that global warming is caused mostly by human activities compared to 37% of the Disengaged, 6% of the Doubtful and 3% of the Dismissive;
· 86% of the Alarmed and 71% of the Concerned understand that emissions from cars and trucks contribute substantially to global warming compared to 18% of the Disengaged, 16% of the Doubtful and 10% of the Dismissive;
· 89% of the Alarmed and 64% of the Concerned understand that a transition to renewable energy sources is an important solution compared to 12% of the Disengaged, 13% of the Doubtful and 7% of the Dismissive.

However, this study also found that occasionally the Doubtful and Dismissive have as good or a better understanding than the Alarmed or Concerned. For example:

· 79% of the Dismissive and 74% of the Doubtful correctly understand that the greenhouse effect refers to gases in the atmosphere that trap heat, compared to 66% of the Alarmed and 64% of the Concerned;
· The Dismissive are less likely to incorrectly say that “the greenhouse effect” refers to the Earth’s protective ozone layer than all other groups, including the Alarmed (13% vs. 24% respectively);
· 50% of the Dismissive and 57% of the Doubtful understand that carbon dioxide traps heat from the Earth’s surface, compared to 59% of the Alarmed, and 45% of the Concerned.

This study also identified numerous gaps between expert and public knowledge about climate change. For example, only:

· 13% of the Alarmed know how much carbon dioxide there is in the atmosphere today (approximately 390 parts per million) compared to 5% of the Concerned, 9% of the Cautious, 4% of the Disengaged, 6% of the Doubtful and 7% of the Dismissive;
· 52% of the Alarmed have heard of coral bleaching, vs. 24% of the Concerned, 23% of the Cautious, 5% of the Disengaged, 21% of the Doubtful and 24% of the Dismissive;
· 46% of the Alarmed have heard of ocean acidification, vs. 22% of the Concerned, 25% of the Cautious, 6% of the Disengaged, 23% of the Doubtful and 16% of the Dismissive.

This study also found important misconceptions leading many to misunderstand the causes and therefore the solutions to climate change. For example, many Americans confuse climate change and the hole in the ozone layer. Such misconceptions were particularly apparent for the Alarmed and Concerned segments:

· 63% of the Alarmed and 49% of the Concerned believe that the hole in the ozone layer is a significant contributor to global warming compared to 32% of the Cautious, 12% of the Disengaged, 6% of the Doubtful and 7% of the Dismissive;
· 49% of the Alarmed and 36% of the Concerned believe that aerosol spray cans are a significant contributor to global warming compared to 20% of the Cautious, 9% of the Disengaged, 7% of the Doubtful and 5% of the Dismissive;
· 39% of the Alarmed and 23% of the Concerned believe that banning aerosol spray cans would reduce global warming compared to 13% of the Cautious, 3% of the Disengaged, 4% of the Doubtful and 1% of the Dismissive.

Concerned, Cautious and Disengaged Americans also recognize their own limited understanding of the issue. Fewer than 1 in 10 say they are “very well informed” about climate change, and 75 percent or more say they would like to know more. The Alarmed also say they need more information (76%), while the Dismissive say they do not need any more information about global warming (73%).

Overall, these and other results within this report demonstrate that most Americans both need and desire more information about climate change. While information alone is not sufficient to engage the public in the issue, it is often a necessary precursor of effective action.”

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