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Global warming concern at three-decade high in U.S.

Staff Writer | March 15, 2017
Record percentages of Americans are concerned about global warming, believe it is occurring, consider it a serious threat and say it is caused by human activity.
California drought
America   The previous high was 41%, recorded in 2007
All of these perceptions are up significantly from 2015.

Forty-five percent of Americans now say they worry "a great deal" about global warming, up from 37% a year ago and well above the recent low point of 25% in 2011.

The previous high was 41%, recorded in 2007. Another 21% currently say they worry "a fair amount" about global warming, while 18% worry "only a little" and 16% worry "not at all."

Americans' level of worry about global warming has seesawed over the past two decades.

Several plausible reasons for the fluctuations include the May 2006 release of "An Inconvenient Truth," highlighting U.S. Vice President Al Gore's aim to educate Americans about global warming, as well as controversy from 2009 to 2011 surrounding global warming research.

The dip in concern between 2007 and 2011 also may reflect Americans' attention being diverted to the economy during the recession and post-recession years.

Unusual weather, particularly record-breaking warm temperatures in the U.S. in recent years, may explain increases in public concern.

Gallup's 2017 Environment survey was conducted March 1-5 on the heels of the country's second-warmest February on record.

The pattern was similar in March 2016 when Gallup recorded a five-percentage-point spike in the percentage of Americans who worried a great deal about global warming following that year's unseasonably warm February.

In addition to warmer weather, anxiety about President Donald Trump's environmental stance could be a factor in Americans' heightened concern about global warming this year.

The new poll found 57% of Americans saying Trump - who has called global warming a "hoax" - will do a poor job of protecting the environment. That far exceeds the percentages of Americans predicting the same for Barack Obama or George W. Bush at the start of each one's first term.

Sixty-two percent of Americans now believe the effects of global warming have already begun to happen. That eclipses the previous high of 61% recorded in 2008 and is up from 49% in 2011.