Most Americans expect to feel the effects of climate change in their lifetimes

Linley SandersData Journalist
April 29, 2022, 9:58 PM GMT+0

Scientists and international experts have warned that climate change will increase global weather disasters, accelerate the spread of diseases, and permanently change daily life. The latest polling data shows that most Americans believe the climate is changing and expect to feel its impact. Many doubt that the effects of climate change will be curbed sufficiently, expecting the Earth's temperature to rise in the next decade.

According to the latest Economist/YouGov poll, nearly four in five Americans (79%) believe the climate is changing, including 54% who say it is because of human activity and 25% who say it is not. One in 12 Americans (8%) believe the world’s climate is not changing. Those numbers have remained consistent since YouGov started asking the question in August 2014.

Democrats (80%) are much more likely than Independents (47%) and Republicans (32%) to say the world’s climate is changing as a result of human activity, another pattern that has remained consistent. When the Economist/YouGov Poll first asked this question, Democrats were similarly likely to say human activity was causing climate change (76% then to 80% now). A smaller share of Independents today think humans are causing the climate to change (57% then to 47% now), while the share of Republicans has grown (25% then, 32% now).

By 47% to 36%, Americans say they have personally felt the effects of climate change, though a much greater proportion of Democrats (68%) say “yes” to this than Independents (44%) and Republicans (28%). A possible explanation is that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to attribute certain severe weather events to climate change, rather than saying these events just happen from time to time. Such climate events include rising sea levels (79% of Democrats say this is a result of climate change, compared to 38% of Republicans) and severe hurricanes (69% of Democrats and 24% of Republicans say this is a result of climate change).

Two-thirds of Americans under 30 (66%) now say that the world’s climate is changing as a result of human activity, much higher than the share of older adults. Beyond currently feeling the impact of climate change, adults under 30 years old are also especially likely (66%) to expect that they will personally feel the effects of climate change in their lifetimes, compared to 59% of Americans overall.

More than four in five Democrats think they will feel the effects of climate change in their lifetimes, compared to 54% of Independents and 39% of Republicans.

By 44% to 25%, Americans believe that the U.S. will not do enough over the next 10 years to combat the effects of climate change. About nine in 10 Americans expect that the Earth’s average temperature will not go down over the next decade: 62% expect that it will go up a lot or a little, and 29% expect it will stay the same.

— Taylor Orth and Carl Bialik contributed to this article

This poll was conducted on April 26 - 27, 2022, among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens. Explore more on the methodology and data for this Economist/YouGov poll

Image: Getty

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