Global Warming a Cooling Concern for Americans, Report Finds

Fewer Americans are finding global warming an important issue, a report from the Pew Research Center finds.

A report from Pew Research Center discovered a sharp decline in the percentage of Americans who believe in evidence supporting global warming. The poll, conducted Sept. 30 to Oct. 4 among 1,500 adults reached on cell phones and landlines, found that 57 percent think there is solid evidence that the average temperature on Earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades. In April 2008, 71 percent said there was solid evidence of rising global temperatures.

A majority, 65 percent, of those surveyed continues to view global warming as a very (35 percent) or somewhat (30 percent) serious problem. But in April 2008, 73 percent expressed this view, including 44 percent who thought it was a very serious problem. About a third (32 percent) said global warming is not too serious (15 percent) or not a problem at all (17 percent). Last year, 24 percent said it was little or no problem. The research center noted that from 2006 to 2008, those numbers had been quite stable.

The report found differences stretched across geographic and political lines. In regard to global warming prevention policy, the debate over health care reform blocked out many Americans' awareness of policies like cap and trade and carbon emissions. The most recent survey of the public's knowledge by the Pew Research Center, released Oct. 14, found that just 23 percent of the public could correctly identify that the cap and trade legislation being discussed in Congress deals with energy and the environment; 48 percent were unsure and 29 percent said incorrectly that it deals with health care, banking reform or unemployment.

The study found half of the public favored setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions and making companies pay for their emissions, even if it may mean higher energy prices. Thirty-nine percent oppose this and 11 percent said they were unsure or did not offer an opinion. However, a majority (56 percent) of Americans thought the United States should join other countries in setting standards to address global climate change; 32 percent say the United States should set its own standards, five percent said neither and six percent were unsure.