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Climate Change: Scientists Certain, Public Not Much

We trust scientists, so why the disconnect?

Why is it, when 97 percent of American scientists (and most of their peers worldwide) have no doubt that the Earth’s climate is changing and largely because of us humans, that only about half of us are “very sure” that it’s happening?

That’s the question that’s probed in a new poll by the Yale University Project on Climate Change Communication.  The reason is not that people are becoming more anti-science. Quite the opposite. “Most Americans have overwhelming trust in the science and trust in scientists,” said Andy Leiserowitz, who led the study.

Rather, the survey showed that the uncertainty about climate change is being driven by conflicting messages from cable TV shows and unscientific views on the Internet.

“They mostly get exposed to a much more conflicted view, and that’s of course not by accident,” Leiserowitz said.

So we’re largely unaware of the extent of scientific consensus because that’s not what we’re hearing in the increasingly agenda-driven media.

On the other hand, the survey also revealed that once we understand that there is a true scientific consensus on climate change, we come down firmly on the side of the science.

“The evidence shows that the more people understand that there is this consensus, the more they tend to believe that climate change is happening, the more they understand that humans are a major contributor, and the more worried they are about it,” Leiserowitz said.

Most of us also want to see a gradual transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.

“We find overwhelming bipartisan agreement about that,” he said.

You can read the full results of the new poll here.

What do you say? Do you believe that the overall climate is changing and that this is largely because of us humans? Let us know in a comment or on Facebook.