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1. Global Warming Beliefs

1.1. Most Americans think global warming is happening.

Americans who think global warming is happening outnumber those who think it is not happening by a ratio of nearly 5 to 1.

About seven in ten Americans (72%) think global warming is happening. By contrast, only 15% of Americans think global warming is not happening. Twelve percent say they don’t know if global warming is happening (refer to data tables, p. 31).

This line graph shows the percentage of Americans over time since 2008 who think global warming is happening or not happening. Most Americans think global warming is happening. Data: Climate Change in the American Mind, Fall 2023. Refer to the data tables in Appendix 1 of the report for all percentages.

 

1.2. When Americans who “don’t know” if global warming is happening are asked for their best guess, more say “yes” than “no.”

Survey respondents who say they “don’t know” whether global warming is happening in response to the question in Section 1.1 (refer to data tables, p. 31) are then asked to provide their best guess as to whether or not global warming is happening. Over time, this follow-up question has produced a relatively stable pattern in which more of these Americans “lean” toward “yes” than “no” (refer to data tables, p. 32).

When the “leaners,” as determined by this follow-up question, are added to the totals of those who responded “yes” or “no” to the question reported in Section 1.1, we find that a total of 80% of Americans think global warming is happening or lean toward that position, while 20% think global warming is not happening or lean toward that position.

This line graph shows the percentage of Americans over time since 2017 who think global warming is happening or not happening, including those who initially say they "don’t know," but then provide their best guess. When Americans who “don’t know” if global warming are asked their best guess, more say “yes” than “no”. Data: Climate Change in the American Mind, Fall 2023. Refer to the data tables in Appendix 1 of the report for all percentages.

 

1.3. About half of Americans are “extremely” or “very” sure global warming is happening.

 About half of Americans (49%) are either “extremely” or “very” sure global warming is happening. Far fewer (8%) are “extremely” or “very” sure global warming is not happening.

These line graphs show the percentage of Americans over time since 2008 who are “extremely” or “very” sure global warming is happening or not happening. About half of Americans are “extremely” or “very” sure global warming is happening. Data: Climate Change in the American Mind, Fall 2023. Refer to the data tables in Appendix 1 of the report for all percentages.

 

1.4. A majority of Americans think global warming is mostly human-caused.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment synthesis report, summarizing the work of thousands of climate experts worldwide, states: “Human activities, principally through emissions of greenhouse gases, have unequivocally caused global warming.”IPCC. (2023). Summary for Policymakers. In Core Writing Team, Lee, H., & Romero, J. (eds.). Climate Change 2023: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland. doi: 10.59327/IPCC/AR6-9789291691647.001

A majority of Americans (58%) understand that global warming is mostly human-caused. By contrast, 29% think it is caused mostly by natural changes in the environment.

This line graph shows the percentage of Americans over time since 2008 who think global warming is mostly human-caused or mostly caused by natural changes in the environment. A majority of Americans think global warming is mostly human-caused. Data: Climate Change in the American Mind, Fall 2023. Refer to the data tables in Appendix 1 of the report for all percentages.

 

1.5. About half of Americans understand that most scientists think global warming is happening.

A review by Cook and colleaguesCook, J., Oreskes, N., Doran, P. T., Anderegg, W. R. I., Verheggen, B., Maibach, E. W., Carlton, J. S., Lewandowsky, S., Skuce, A. G., Green, S. A., Nuccitelli, D., Jacobs, P., Richardson, M., Winkler, B., Painting, R., & Rice., K. (2016). Consensus on consensus: A synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming. Environmental Research Letters, 11(4). doi:10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/048002 found that six independent, peer-reviewed studies examining the scientific consensus about global warming have concluded that between 90% and 100% of climate scientists are convinced human-caused global warming is happening. A more recent study found that as many as 98% of climate scientists are convinced global warming is happening and human-caused.Myers, K. F., Doran, P. T., Cook, J., Kotcher, J. E., & Myers, T. A. (2021). Consensus revisited: Quantifying scientific agreement on climate change and climate expertise among Earth scientists 10 years later. Environmental Research Letters, 16(10). doi:10.1088/1748-9326/ac2774

About half of Americans (53%) understand that most scientists think global warming is happening. By contrast, one in four (25%) think there is a lot of disagreement among scientists about whether or not global warming is happening. Very few Americans (3%) believe most scientists think global warming is not happening.

This line graph shows the percentage of Americans over time since 2008 who understand that most scientists think global warming is happening. About half of Americans understand that most scientists think global warming is happening. Data: Climate Change in the American Mind, Fall 2023. Refer to the data tables in Appendix 1 of the report for all percentages.