Chicago hit 103 degrees Fahrenheit today, while Washington, D.C. tied its record for the most consecutive 95-plus degree days: 8 days straight, with more heat expected. Yet according to a recent Washington Post/Stanford University poll, just 18 percent of Americans say climate change is their top environmental concern, down from 33 percent in 2007. Air and water pollution was seen by respondents as our top eco-threat, at 29 percent.
The encouraging news: Of the 804 adults in the poll, conducted between June 13 and 21, nearly three-quarters of Americans say the planet is warming and that temperatures will rise if we continue to do little about it. Writes the Post: “The findings, along with follow-up interviews with some respondents, indicate that Washington’s decision to shelve action on climate policy means that the issue has receded” in the public’s mind.
The poll was taken just before the Eastern heat wave and the catastrophic Colorado wildfires. While climatologists always caution us not to conflate “climate” with “weather,” the heat wave is "consistent” with what climate change might look like. Wildfires “and the weather conditions that create them, are exactly what climate models are predicting for arid Western landscapes from California to the Rocky Mountains,” writes Mark Lubell, director of the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior at the University of California, Davis.
Image by iStock/KLH49.
Reed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”