Climate Change in the American Mind: December 2018

Graves destroyed during Hurricane Maria in September 2017 are seen at a cemetery in Lares Puerto Rico

Graves destroyed during Hurricane Maria in September 2017 are seen at a cemetery in Lares Puerto Rico

The results of the survey by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released this week showed 71 percent of respondents said climate change is happening while only 9 percent said it isn't; 19 percent are unsure.

But when the prospect of spending money on fighting climate change entered the picture, the respondents sang a tune that some might find surprising.

"Many global insurers have already implemented significant climate change response programs", ICA GM Risk Karl Sullivan says in a LinkedIn post. "A number of potential initiatives may best be achieved through collective effort and to facilitate this, ICA has recently established the committee".

The poll, which was conducted a year ago, found that around 73 percent of Americans believed that global warming was happening, an increase of 10 percentage points since 2015.

He said the biggest surprise for researchers was how Americans' worry about global warming spiked between their surveys in March and December of past year. A landmark United Nations report from previous year warned that the world has little more than a decade to limit catastrophic climate change, which will involve millions of people displaced by sea level rise or subjected to deadly heatwaves, as well as the loss of nearly all of the planet's coral reefs.

The level of concern increased sharply from the previous "Climate Change in the American Mind" poll in March 2018.

Seven in ten Americans think that global warming is happening, and six in ten think that, if it is happening, it is mostly owing to human activity, but only about one in five know that almost all climate scientists agree that global warming is happening as a result of human activity.

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Still, the director of the survey that has most consistently tracked public opinion on global warming said there is reason for hope in the most recent survey, conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.

The public is more convinced that climate change could hurt them, their families, and their communities than ever before, the Yale survey shows. That's ten percent higher than what it was in 2015. "They understand it's not decades away and it's not in some other place". A $1 per month fee was favored by 57 percent of those surveyed.

Not surprisingly as the per-month price increased, the percentage of respondents willing to pay generally decreased. But just 15 percent of Republicans agreed.

In one, an worldwide panel warned of dire consequences if temperatures increase more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

In Wyoming, Utah, and Idaho, about 40 percent of people don't believe climate change is happening. Having once called climate change a "hoax", Trump continues to tweet doubts about the seriousness of the problem, prompting fact-checking media coverage.

James Rainey is a reporter for NBC News, based in Los Angeles.

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