Do we understand climate change?
Yale study gives Americans an F.
Fri, Oct 15 2010 at 11:55 AM
FAILING GRADE: Most Americans don't understand global warming or think humans affect climate change, according to a Yale study. (Photo:Wolfgang Staudt/Flickr)
Researchers at Yale University conducted a study to determine Americans' knowledge and understanding of global warming and climate change. The results were less than stellar. In short, the researchers found that 63 percent of Americans believe global warming is real ... but don't understand why. According to an article in Science Centric, more than half of us don't understand the greenhouse effect and only about 50 percent "understand that global warming is caused mostly by human activities."
The Yale researchers gave a nationwide "assessment" to test Americans' knowledge of climate change, and found that only eight percent of the participants scored a B or better. Worse, 52 percent of the participants earned an F grade.
The Science Centric article cites example test sections, like myths that Americans believe, such as aerosol spray cans causing global warming. The Yale report indicates that this is problematic because Americans incorrectly assume simple solutions (like banning aerosol spray cans) are enough to "solve" the problem of global warming. According to the Science Centric story, most of us do understand that car emissions and "the burning of fossil fuels" contribute to climate change and that it's important for us to begin using renewable energy. However, but the study found there are major problems that 75 percent of Americans have not heard of (for instance, coral bleaching).
On a positive note, the test takers did indicate a desire to have more knowledge of the situation (75 percent of them, anyway) and these same folks feel that schools should include climate change in the curriculum. Science Centric feels the study definitively "demonstrates that Americans need to learn more about the causes, impacts, and potential solutions to global warming," quoting lead researcher Anthony Leiserowitz.