President-elect Donald Trump arrives to speak at a USA Thank You Tour 2016 at the Giant Center on December 15, 2016 in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  / AFP / Don EMMERT        (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
Trump vs. American public on climate change
01:20 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Americans overwhelmingly agree with the scientists, according to public opinion polls

What they don't agree on, at all, is how big a deal it is

Washington CNN  — 

Scientists overwhelmingly agree that the climate is changing and getting warmer, and that humans are contributing.

Americans overwhelmingly agree with the scientists, according to public opinion polls.

Seventy percent say climate change is happening, according to a study from researchers on climate communications at Yale and George Mason universities in January, and 55% said it is mostly caused by humans.

They have also supported US adherence to the Paris Accord – 70% – the enormous, nearly worldwide international agreement that countries must act to keep global temperatures at bay.

President Donald Trump is said to be on the verge of pulling out of that agreement.

CNN’s John Sutter, who covers climate change extensively, has written about the polling on the issue. Please read his earlier post on the subject.

But here’s the rub, politically.

Americans agree that climate change is a thing and that people are to blame and that something like Paris should be done.


What they don’t agree on, at all, is how big a deal it is.

Just 45% of Americans, according to polling in April from Gallup, said they worry “a great deal” about global warming. Only 42% say they will feel the effects of climate change in their lifetime.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump walk together during the G7 Summit in Taormina, Italy on Saturday, May 27, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)
Trump has said often climate change isn't real
01:36 - Source: CNN

But context is important here.

That 45% who worry a great deal is up quite a bit from just two years ago, when it was just 37% who said they “worry a great deal.” Back in 2011, it was a mere 25%.

So it’s true to say less than half of Americans are worried a great deal about climate change, but the number is growing at a very fast clip.

As Jennifer Agiesta, CNN’s polling director, puts it:

“It’s possible this could be one of those issues where concern is connected to who’s in charge of the policy. Trump came into office very clear about his intention not to do much to stop warming, so people who were fine with what Barack Obama’s administration was doing about it (and therefore not that concerned during the Obama years) might be expressing greater concern now that the presidency has changed hands.”

She said it’s possible climate could become an issue that ebbs and flows in public opinion like the economy, which is often directly tied to the White House. Democrats are more bullish during Democratic administrations, and vice-versa. But that will be born out in future if concern about climate change continues to grow and becomes more or less bipartisan.