A new joint study out of Yale and George Mason University found a marked decrease in numbers of Americans who say they are even somewhat concerned about global warming. Only 51 percent even believe it is happening, down 14 points since the last study of its kind in the fall of 2008. Of that 51 percent, only half believe global warming is caused by humans. The study, "Climate Change in the American Mind: Americans' Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in January 2010," can be accessed here.
"The scientific evidence is clear that climate change is real, human caused and a serious threat to communities across America," said Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason. "The erosion in both public concern and public trust about global warming should be a clarion call for people and organizations trying to educate the public about this important issue."
This disregard of mounting scientific evidence and drop in concern about climate change coincides with a growing distrust of public figures, the survey found. The distrust appears to be non-partisan -- 65 percent surveyed distrust Sarah Palin while 53 percent distrust former Vice President Al Gore. But the most troubling aspect of the survey results is not necessarily who is trusted less, but the question of how scientists will get their increasingly important message across as attention spans and respect wane.
From a grassroots perspective, apolitical, local movements are now needed more than ever. Many environmental groups were disappointed with President Obama's State of the Union speech last night, in which he promised more nuclear, "clean" coal and offshore drilling options. With a less-than-promising climate bill in the works, (and many believing it will not happen at all), support for independent environmental organizations is crucial. If Americans no longer trust our leaders at the top, perhaps they will turn their ears to voices in their own communities.