Climate Change in the American Mind, September 2021

7. How Americans Conceptualize Global Warming

7.1. Americans are most likely to think of global warming as an environmental and scientific issue.

Global warming is a complex challenge with many dimensions. Understanding how people conceptualize the issue is critical to formulating effective communication strategies.

A large majority of Americans think global warming is an environmental issue (79%) and a scientific issue (74%). More than half think global warming is a severe weather (69%), agricultural (66%), economic (66%), health (64%), political (60%), and/or humanitarian (60%) issue.

Fewer think global warming is a moral (49%), poverty (37%), national security (35%), social justice (34%), and/or religious (11%) issue.

Over the past five years (since November 2016), the proportions of Americans who consider global warming a moral issue and a poverty issue have each increased by 12 percentage points (see data tables). Among the other items that were asked in both the current survey and in November 2016, the proportion of Americans who view global warming as a social justice (fairness) issue (+10 percentage points), a national security issue (+8 points), a severe weather issue (+8 points), and an economic issue (+6 points), has also increased.