More Tie Extreme Weather to Changing Climate: Poll

Respondents say they're talking about the issue if not acting
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 22, 2023 5:15 PM CDT
More Tie Extreme Weather to Changing Climate: Poll
Cracked earth is visible on Jan. 27 in an area once under the water of Lake Mead at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area near Boulder City, Nev.   (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

An overwhelming majority of people in the US say they have recently experienced an extreme weather event, a new poll shows, and most of them attribute that to climate change. But even as many across the country mark Earth Day on Saturday, the poll shows relatively few say they feel motivated when they talk about the issue. The findings from the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll echo growing evidence that many individuals question their own role in combating climate change. Still, the poll suggests people are paying attention, the AP reports.

About half of US adults say they have grown more concerned about the changing climate in the past year, and a growing number say they are talking about it. Adriana Moreno said she feels like she’s been talking about climate change for years, but it's only recently that the 22-year-old high school teacher has noticed her older family members bringing up the issue– "almost every time I see them," said Moreno, a Democratic voter in New York. Her family on the East Coast talks about how the seasons have changed while her family in El Salvador talks about how poorly some crops on their farm are faring. It's not that they didn't believe in climate change before, Moreno said, but it was "out of sight, out of mind."

Overall, about 8 in 10 US adults say that in the past five years, they have personally felt the effects of extreme weather, such as extreme heat or drought, according to the poll. Most of them–54% of the public overall–say what they experienced was at least partly a result of climate change. They're not wrong, said the head of the federal agency overseeing weather and climate issues. “It is a reality that regardless of where you are in the country, where you call home, you've likely experienced a high-impact weather event firsthand," National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Rick Spinrad said at a meteorological conference this year, noting that the US has the most weather disasters that cost $1 billion of any nation in the world.

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NOAA uses weather disasters that cost $1 billion as a measure of climate change and how it affects people. Last year there were 18 of those events, costing more than $165 billion in total and killing 474 people. That included Hurricane Ian and an ongoing drought in the West. These types of weather events hit the nation on average once every 82 days in the 1980s but are now smacking the country at a rate of slightly more than once every two weeks, Spinrad said. "With a changing climate, buckle up," Spinrad warned. "More extreme events are expected." The poll shows about three-quarters of US adults say recent extreme weather events have had at least some influence on their beliefs about climate change.

(More climate change stories.)

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