Americans believe global warming is real, want action, but not as a priority

Most Americans believe global warming is real but a moderate and distant risk. While they strongly support policies like investing in renewable energy, higher fuel economy standards and international treaties, they strongly oppose carbon taxes on energy sources that put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

These results were reported by Anthony Leiserowitz, a courtesy professor of environmental studies at the University of Oregon, in a talk during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco. His conclusions, based on a national survey conducted in 2003 are detailed in a new book, "Creating a Climate for Change: Communicating Climate Change Facilitating Social Change," that he and other contributors discussed in an 8:30 a.m., PST, session devoted to communication strategies.

The study by Leiserowitz, also a scientist at Decision Research, a non-profit research institute in Eugene, Ore., looked at the risk perceptions, policy views and behavior of Americans in regards to global warming.

Although the data demonstrating climate change have grown stronger in recent years, Americans rank global warming as a low priority compared to other national issues such as the Iraq war, the economy, health care and education, and environmental issues such as air and water pollution, Leiserowitz said.

Using affective-image analysis, Leiserowitz also asked Americans what thoughts or images came to mind when thinking about global warming. Sixty-one percent of their associations fell into just four categories: melting ice in the Arctic; warmer temperatures; impacts on non-human nature; and polar ozone holes.

"These responses help us understand the connotative meaning of global warming and why Americans react the way they do," Leiserowitz said. "These associations are to geographically or psychologically distant impacts, generic warming trends, or a completely different environmental

Contact: Jim Barlow
University of Oregon

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