18 April 2013 – As Earth Day approaches (Monday 22 April), a GlobeScan poll of American public opinion has found that Superstorm Sandy last October appears to have increased the perceived seriousness of climate change, much as Hurricane Katrina affected public opinion seven years ago.
GlobeScan surveyed a representative sample of 1,000 Americans by telephone last month (March 2013) and found the percentage of Americans rating climate as “very serious” increased from 39 percent (in 2011) to 44 percent today (a 5 point increase). A total of 73 percent of Americans now say climate change is a serious concern (very or somewhat).
To put these findings in perspective, GlobeScan’s 2011 survey revealed that an average of 56 percent of a 12-country tracking sample (see methodology below) considered climate change to be a “very serious” concern, compared to only 39 percent of Americans—the lowest of any of these countries, including China (55%) and India (47%).
As the following chart reveals, for much of the period between 1992 and 2005, Americans were significantly less concerned about climate change than much of the rest of the world. Hurricane Katrina, however, catapulted American concern, with the percentage of Americans expressing “very serious” concern jumping 20 points from a few years earlier.
Since Katrina, U.S. climate concerns have languished along with those of the rest of the industrialized world, until the most recent increase following Superstorm Sandy.
GlobeScan Chairman Doug Miller observes, “Violent weather seems to speak to Americans when it comes to their climate concerns, but perhaps in a diminishing way. While Superstorm Sandy seems to have increased the perceived seriousness of climate change in the minds of Americans, it doesn’t appear to have had as much effect as Hurricane Katrina did (with its greater loss of life). The current convergence of U.S. and global opinion on climate has more to do with global concern dropping significantly since the failed Copenhagen Climate Summit in December 2009.”
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For the separate 2013 USA results, a nationally representative sample of 1,018 citizens was interviewed by telephone between February 23 and March 17, 2013.
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