Poll: Americans blame wild weather on global warming
WASHINGTON — After hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria blitzed the nation, most Americans think weather disasters are getting more severe and see global warming’s fingerprints.
A new poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 68 percent of Americans think weather disasters seem to be worsening, compared to 28 percent who think they are staying the same and only 4 percent who say they are less severe.
And 46 percent of those who think it’s getting worse blame man-made climate change mostly or solely for the wild weather, while another 39 percent say it’s a combination of global warming and natural variability.
“Just with all the hurricanes that are happening this year ... it just seems like things are kind of mixed up,” said Kathy Weber, a 46-year-old stay-at-home mom from Menomonie, Wisconsin.
When Hurricane Nate washed ashore in the Gulf Coast earlier this month, it was one of the first storms that Greg Thompson did not evacuate for. Thompson, a retired pest control researcher in New Orleans, said “it’s pretty irrational” that people and politicians can deny global warming when the Gulf of Mexico is so much hotter than decades ago and storms seem so much more powerful.
“When so many things are happening and so many of them (storms) are intense and so many of them are once-in500-year levels and they’re all occurring, it’s a pretty good sign global warming is having an effect,” Thompson said.
Susan Cutter, who directs the Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute at the University of South Carolina, said she’s not surprised by the poll results.
“How can you not” notice it, Cutter said. “The public sees the connection because they see it happening to their neighbors, themselves. They see it on television. And they’re not responding to a particular political constituency.”
Cutter and other experts say from a science perspective, it is clear that the United States is getting more extreme weather and climate change plays a role.
This year so far has seen 15 weather disasters that cost $1 billion or more, tied for the most in the first nine months of the year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
An analysis of 167 years of federal storm data by The Associated Press finds that no 30-year period in history has seen this many major hurricanes, this many days of those storms spinning in the Atlantic, or this much overall energy generated by those powerful storms.
Even though she went down to help Hurricane Harvey victims in Texas as a missionary and midwife, Gwendolyn Posey of Oklahoma just doesn’t see any increase in extreme weather.
“I don’t think it’s manmade climate change,” Posey said. “It’s always changing one way or another. It’s always in flux.”
Posey points to a record 12year period during which no major hurricane hit the United States. During that time period, Atlantic hurricanes were still more active than normal, but didn’t hit the mainland United States.