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Americans’ climate alarm reaches an all-time high

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

Americans’ climate alarm reaches an all-time high

By Flannery Winchester

How many Americans are alarmed about climate change? More than ever, according to new numbers from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

The program’s director, Anthony Leiserowitz, explained,The Alarmed segment is at an all-time high (29%)—which is double that segment’s size in 2013 and an 8-point increase since March 2018.” With all this increased concern, it’s a great time to ask people in your life about their own thoughts on climate change. They might surprise you!

Here’s the new breakdown of where Americans stand on the climate issue:

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

Climate communicator and CCL advisory board member Katharine Hayhoe also put those numbers into context on Twitter. She said, “For a long time, the biggest categories in @YaleClimateComm’s Six Americas of Global Warming were Cautious and Concerned. Today, that is no longer true.”

Over the past five years, the numbers show that people are actually moving out of the “Dismissive” and “Doubtful” categories—those groups have shrunk by five and six percentage points, respectively. The “Cautious” segment has also gone down six percentage points. The “Concerned” and “Alarmed” segments, by contrast, have grown.

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication change 5 years

These trends are incredibly encouraging. They show that people can—and do—change their opinion on climate change. Perhaps those changes are due to the unrelenting impacts of climate change that people are noticing all across the country: record-breaking wildfires, strong hurricanes, and temperatures that are off the charts in one direction or another.

Or perhaps it’s thanks to the work CCL volunteers do in communities all across the country: tabling at events like festivals and farmers markets, giving presentations to community groups, meeting with local business and faith leaders, and publishing letters and op-eds in their hometown newspapers.

Maybe it’s in response to elected officials speaking up more and more about the reality and the urgency of climate change, like Reps. Ted Deutch and Francis Rooney when they introduced a bipartisan climate solution into Congress.

Whatever the factors that are sending these numbers in the right direction, we’re glad to see them. They show that broad, majority concern for climate change exists among the American electorate, which is important for our leaders to know. These numbers also confirm what CCLers know at our core: it’s worth reaching out to everyone, even in unconventional places or groups, because you never know who might be ready to listen.

With that in mind, consider reaching out to someone who may surprise you with their stance on climate change. Maybe that family member you wrote off years ago is one of those whose position has evolved. Maybe folks in your community who weren’t interested in CCL’s work in the past are more concerned now and would be open to talking. You could invite them to your local chapter meeting, or simply have a conversation. A friendly connection with you might shift their positions even more, give them some hope, and bring America closer to agreement on the bipartisan climate solutions we need.

Flannery Winchester has put her words to work for magazines, for marketing agencies, and now for our earth as CCL's Communications Director. She is grateful to spend every day working to preserve this beautiful planet.