Two-thirds of Americans believe that climate change is either a crisis or a serious problem, with a majority wanting to take immediate action to address global warming and its deleterious consequences, major new surveys have found.
In the midst of a democratic primary shaped by unprecedented alarms about the climate crisis and a rebellious youth climate movement sweeping the world, the vote shows significant uneven support for dealing with the issue.
More than a quarter of Americans in the new CBS News poll questioned climate change as a "crisis", with another 36% defining it as a "serious problem". Two out of ten respondents said it was a small problem, with only 16% saying it was not worrying at all.
More than half of Americans in demand said they wanted the climate crisis to be directly confronted, with smaller groups willing to wait a few more years and only 18% rejecting any need to act.
"Americans are finally waking up to the existential threat that the climate situation poses to our society," said Margaret Klein Salamon, a clinical psychologist and founder of the Climate Mobilization Project. "This is huge progress for our movement – and it is young people who have been the main responsible for it."
But while almost all of those in dispute accept that the climate is changing, there seems to be a continuing confusion over why and scientists. trust in the causes.
There is a consensus among climate scientists that the world is heating up due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels for electricity generation and transport, and cutting down forests. But only 44% of respondents said that human activity contributed to climate change. More than a quarter said our impact was small or non-existent.
There is a more even split of the results of the climate scientists. According to the CBS survey, 52% of Americans say "scientists agree that humans are a major cause" of the climate crisis, with 48% claiming that there is disagreement among experts.
"This is still a very misunderstanding – if you think global warming is just a natural cycle, you probably won't support a policy aimed at reducing carbon dioxide, such as regulations and taxes," said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of The Yale Program for Climate Change Communication, which has made similar results in itself, long-term polling.
"These results also reaffirm a long-standing problem, which is why many Americans still believe that scientists themselves are uncertain whether human-caused global warming is happening.
" Our own and others' research has repeatedly found that this is a critical misunderstanding, fueled by the fossil fuel industry for decades, to cast doubt, increase public uncertainty and thus hold people in the tatus quo, in a "wait and see" mode. ”
Like previous surveys, CBS research finds sharp ideological differences in attitudes to the climate crisis. While almost seven in ten Democratic voters understand that people are significantly impacting the climate and 80% want to act immediately, only 20% of Republicans believe that people are a primary cause and just under a quarter want quick action.
About science, nearly three-quarters of Democrats said that almost all experts agree that people are driving climate change, with only 29% of Republicans saying the same.
Age is another key variable. While 70% of 18- to 29-year-olds believe that climate change is a serious problem or crisis, only 58% over 65 agree. Younger people are much more likely to consider it a personal responsibility to deal with the climate crisis and to believe that a transition to 100% renewable energy is viable.
Young people have been galvanized by climate science taught in schools and spread by the global activist movement at the head of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who started a wave of school sections to demand action. Thunberg recently arrived in the US on a solar power boat, ahead of a major UN climate summit in New York on September 23.
This generational divide even cuts the party union, with two-thirds of Republican voters under the age of 45 considering it their duty to address the climate crisis, according to CBS's investigation. Only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45 feel the same.
"Younger Republicans are far more convinced that climate change is a crisis and supports action than older Republicans – which has major implications for the future of the party," Leiserowitz said.
, raises sea levels and causes warmer summers. Another two-thirds accept that hurricanes will be made more severe by global warming. Hurricane Dorian, which recently destroyed parts of the Bahamas, made 38% of Americans more concerned about the climate crisis, with 56% uncertain.
Leiserowitz said that the relationship between extreme weather events and concerns about climate change is complicated, with people already worried about the most likely to say that their alarms have increased when a major storm or flood hits.
Regardless of climate change concerns, there seems to be skepticism among Americans about how much people can do about it. Only 19% said that people can stop rising temperatures and associated effects, with almost half believing it is possible to slow but not stop the changes and 23% refuse to believe that people can do anything at all.
This may well affect the views of leading presidential candidates' climate plans. Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders, for example, has proposed a rapid rebuild of society where planetary emissions from transport and power generation are eradicated within just 11 years.
"By saying that we should only slow down and not reverse global warming, we are passively accepting the deaths of billions of people," said Margaret Klein Salamon, of the climate mobilization project.
"The only thing that can protect us is a all-out, all-hands on tire mobilization, as we did during World War II. Avoiding the collaboration of civilization and restoring a safe climate should be the highest priority of any government – at the national, state and local levels. "