Poll: Amer­i­cans blame wild weather on global warm­ing

Santa Fe New Mexican - - NATION & WORLD - By Seth Borenstein and Emily Swanson

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 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, Wis.

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 man-made cli­mate change,” Posey said. “It’s al­ways chang­ing one way or another. It’s al­ways in flux.”

Posey points to a record 12-year 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.

“Any­time the gov­ern­ment starts ram­ming things down my throat, I im­me­di­ately think it’s wrong,” said Posey, a mother of 10, farmer and doc­tor of nat­u­ral medicine. “Truth speaks for it­self.”

Ac­cord­ing to the new poll, 63 per­cent of Amer­i­cans think both that cli­mate change is hap­pen­ing and that the gov­ern­ment should ad­dress it, but there’s lit­tle sign that those feel­ings have strength­ened since sur­veys con­ducted be­fore this year’s run of hur­ri­canes.

Two-thirds of Amer­i­cans dis­ap­prove of the way Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is han­dling cli­mate change. That’s sim­i­lar to his ap­proval rat­ing over­all.

Thomp­son said he will take cli­mate change into ac­count when he casts his bal­lot.

“If there is some­body who ac­tu­ally says global warm­ing isn’t hap­pen­ing, that’s a sign that they are too stupid, too crazy or too dis­hon­est to get my vote,” Thomp­son said.

The AP-NORC poll of 1,150 adults was con­ducted Sept. 28Oct. 2 us­ing a sam­ple drawn from NORC’s prob­a­bil­ity-based Amer­iS­peak panel, which is de­signed to be rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion. The mar­gin of sam­pling er­ror for all re­spon­dents is plus or mi­nus 4.1 per­cent­age points.

Re­spon­dents were first se­lected ran­domly us­ing ad­dress­based sam­pling meth­ods, and later in­ter­viewed on­line or by phone.


Pa­trick Gar­vey walks on what’s left of his farm as he talks Sept. 14 about the de­struc­tion of his once-thriv­ing en­ter­prise in Big Pine Key, Fla. Af­ter Hur­ri­canes Har­vey, Irma and Maria, most Amer­i­cans think weather dis­as­ters are get­ting more se­vere.

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