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Record number of Americans are ‘Alarmed’ about climate change

A recent study carried out by the Centre for Climate Change Communication of the George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, USA, has found that a considerable amount of American find the climate change phenomenon alarming.

John Kerry
US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry

This disclosure is contained in the Centre’s newly published Climate Note tagged: “Global Warming’s Six Americas, September 2021.”

The Centre’s prior research found that Americans can be categorised into six distinct groups – Global Warming’s Six Americas – based on their beliefs, attitudes, policy support, and behaviour about climate change.

The Alarmed are the most engaged, are very worried about global warming, and strongly support climate action. The Concerned think global warming is a significant threat but prioritize it less and are less likely to be taking action. The Cautious are aware of climate change but are uncertain about its causes and are not very worried about it.

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The Disengaged are largely unaware of global warming, while the Doubtful doubt it is happening or human-caused and perceive it as a low risk. The Dismissive firmly reject the reality of human-caused global warming and oppose most climate change policies.

Today, however, the Alarmed (33%) outnumber the Dismissive (9%) by more than three to one. About six in 10 Americans (59%) are either Alarmed or Concerned, while only about 2 in 10 (19%) are Doubtful or Dismissive.

There has been substantial change in the distribution of the Six Americas over the past five years. The Alarmed segment has nearly doubled in size, increasing 15 percentage points (from 18% to 33% of the U.S. adult population), including an increase of 9 percentage points from March 2021 to September 2021.

In contrast, over the past five years only about one in 10 Americans have been Dismissive (decreasing from 11% to 9%). Overall, Americans are becoming more worried about global warming, more engaged with the issue, and more supportive of climate solutions.

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When the Centre’s surveys began in 2008, the Concerned were the single largest group. By 2010, they were slightly smaller, while the Cautious grew and became about equally as large. By contrast, the Alarmed were the second smallest group as recently as early 2015 (only the Disengaged were smaller), but have grown rapidly to become the largest segment of the U.S. population today. Meanwhile, the Cautious, Doubtful, and Dismissive groups have all gotten smaller in recent years.

Americans’ understanding of global warming’s reality and risks, and support for climate action is said to be growing. According to the study, the growth of the Alarmed segment, in particular, is encouraging because progress on climate change requires strong, coordinated, and sustained action, and the Alarmed are the most likely to demand and support these actions by leaders.

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Yet, this potential “issue public” still needs to be organised and mobilised to demand action at all levels of American society, said the Centre. The Concerned and Cautious (42% of U.S. adults) do not yet fully understand the threat of climate impacts or the urgency of climate action, despite the fact that global warming is already harming communities across America – including increasingly extreme weather, impacts on human health, and human and economic disasters. However, there is also strong public support – across party lines – for a variety of climate policies.

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