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Study: People 'alarmed' and 'concerned' about climate changed has doubled the last decade

Civility and Climate Change
Courtesy of UNLV's Barrick Museum
The Climate Opinion study from Yale showed that more than 60% of study respondents said global warming should be a priority for the next president and Congress.

Climate change is becoming increasingly important for voters, according to a study from Yale University. 

The Yale Climate Opinion Map split people into several categories. (An updated version of the poll, which breaks down those opinions by state and congressional district, was released on May 8.) Those who are “alarmed” and “concerned” almost doubled over the past decade to nearly 30%. About 16% are “doubtful” or “dismissive.”

The study showed 73% of adults think global warming is happening. And, in our region, it’s especially concerning to residents in Nevada (65% of residents are concerned), Colorado (66%) and New Mexico (67%).

Yale professor Anthony Leiserowitz is also the director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, which did the study. He said there are many misconceptions about climate. Gone are days when it was perceived to be important to only white, educated so called “tree huggers.”

“The demographic that cares the most about climate change are Latinos," Leiserowitz said. "They’re more convinced it's happening, that it’s human caused. They’re more worried about it, they’re more supportive of action and they’re more willing to get personally involved.”

Leiserowitz said misinformation has been keeping people in doubt about climate change. He said the fossil fuel industry has been very effective, spending millions of dollars in their lobbying efforts for their own profit. He likens it to the tobacco industry, which was also very effective in its lobbying efforts for profit, until generations were affected by their products.  In both cases he says these industries have used doubt as its most effective weapon. 

He said those who remain doubtful say they are waiting for scientific consensus. Leiserowitz said scientists and media need to be more effective in collaborating and bringing this scientific information to the forefront. The good news, he said, is that when the doubtful are presented with facts, they are willing to "change their minds." 

"This is another critical need, that is for people to understand that climate change is happening right here, right now and is already having impacts on the people, the places and things we already care about,” he said.

Those who were "concerned" believe global warming is happening right now and that it is human created. More than 60% of study respondents said global warming should be a priority for the next president and Congress.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio (KNPR) in Las Vegas, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Yvette Fernandez is the regional reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau. She joined Nevada Public Radio in September 2021.