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Sierra Daily

Feb 29, 2012

Warming Up to Warming

The latest National Survey of American Public Opinion on Climate Change finds that 62 percent of Americans think the planet is getting warmer. That number may frustrate anyone who was persuaded by the data on climate change a decade ago, but it’s actually hopeful news: It’s the highest proportion since 2009--up from 55 percent in 2009 and 58 percent in 2010.

Well, somewhat hopeful. It turns out that nearly half the people who say they believe in global warming do so based on their own “observations of temperature changes and weather." According to AP, “climate researchers say that's reaching the correct conclusion for reasons that aren't quite right.” As anyone frustrated at the inability to draw long-term climate conclusions from discrete weather events knows, a dramatic single flood, drought, or spilled beer can’t be laid directly at the feet of global warming (though climate change will cause such life-changing events to become more frequent). "I'm pleased that Americans believe in thermometers," said University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver. "People feel confident about what they personally experience. They mix up the difference between weather and climate. It's not unexpected. It's human nature."

Earlier versions of the survey showed that Americans' belief in global warming hit its peak in late 2008 at 72 percent.

-- Reed McManus

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