Thursday, March 28, 2013

Was Superstorm Sandy A Tipping Point In Regard To Opinions About Climate Change?

The persistent skepticism of Americans concerning climate change may have been altered by reactions to Superstorm Sandy. In a recent national survey, 82% of U.S. adults reported the they believe climate change is already occurring according to researchers at Stanford University.

In particular, many of those directly impacted by the storm appear to accept that climate change is occurring. As reported by
New Yorkers overwhelmingly agree that climate change was behind super storm Sandy. Fully 69 percent of Empire State residents blame climate change for the storm, while just 24 percent think it was “isolated weather events,” according to a Siena Research Institute poll. That includes at least 63 percent of voters in every region of the state, and even a near-majority — 46 percent — of Republicans. Two-thirds of independent voters also blame climate change. “There may be a debate about what has caused the global climate change, but for most New Yorkers there is no debate that it is occurring,” said pollster Steven Greenberg of the strong consensus.
Personal experience with extreme weather events is probably a huge driver of the increasingly common belief that climate change is occurring. The devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy, as well as all the other extreme weather events of the past two years that have directly impacted U.S. adults, seems like an opinion changer. Of course, the cold weather this spring may lead some folks that are on the fence about climate change to jump back to being skeptical.   

As pointed out by pollster Steven Greenberg, the debate about the causes of why global warming is occurring is likely to persist for quite some time. Many will continue to believe that global warming is a naturally occurring trend and be skeptical of suggestions that man made greenhouse gas emissions are to blame. 

While it is impossible to pinpoint whether any single extreme weather event is caused by climate change, I suspect that if we have another hot summer, the number of U.S. adults that are worried about climate change will be on the increase. 

As discussed in a previous postour minds are hard-wired to spot patterns as it helps us make sense of the world. Thus, we often confuse correlation with causation. In the case of extreme weather, at least some of the droughts, flash floods, and record breaking snowfalls of the last few years probably can be attributed to global climate change. It is easy to make a connection between changing weather patterns and the climate, and one that some researchers judge to be scientifically valid. Once an individual has made a connection between extreme weather and global climate change, it becomes more likely that they will make a connection between every extreme weather event and global warming.  

Related Link

Global Warming Scare May Be Overblown In Short Term, But Increased Droughts, Flooding and Wildfires Are Here Today

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