The percentage of Americans who say there is solid evidence that the earth is warming dropped sharply over the past year, according to the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
Though 77 percent of Americans surveyed in both 2006 and 2007 said that there is solid evidence that global temperatures are rising, and even as recent as last year, 71 percent said there is, only 57 percent of Americans surveyed this year responded the same.
The percentage of those who don't believe that there is solid evidence, meanwhile, has risen from 16 percent just two years ago to 33 percent today.
"The decline in the belief in solid evidence of global warming has come across the political spectrum, but has been particularly pronounced among independents," reported the Pew Research Center.
According to the survey's results, just 53 percent of independents now see solid evidence of global warming, compared with 75 percent who did so in April 2008. Thirty-five percent of Republicans, meanwhile, now see solid evidence of rising global temperatures, down from 49 percent in 2008 and 62 percent in 2007. Fewer Democrats also express this view – 75 percent today compared with 83 percent last year and 91 percent in 2006.
The latest survey comes two days ahead of the International Day of Climate Change Action and two months ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, where national government delegations who agreed to shape an ambitious international response to climate change in 2007 will be meeting to agree on a post-2012 climate agreement that will replace the current Kyoto Protocol.
According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2009 is a crucial year in the international effort to address climate change as some scientists say industrialized nations must cut emissions by 25 to 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 to prevent climate disasters, such as coastal flooding from rising sea levels, severe weather events, and variations in rainfall and temperatures that will affect agriculture and wipe out species of plants and animals.
Under the current deal, 37 industrial countries are required to cut emissions a total 5 percent from 1990 by 2012. Based on the current declarations from wealthy countries, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature estimates the total emissions cut will amount to 10 percent by 2020.
Presently, the president and Congress are considering a cap and trade policy that would set limits on carbon dioxide emissions.
Despite the growing public skepticism about global warming, the Pew survey still found more support than opposition for a policy to set limits on carbon emissions. According to Pew, half of Americans favor setting limits on carbon emissions and making companies pay for their emissions, even if this may lead to higher energy prices. Thirty-nine percent, meanwhile, oppose imposing limits on carbon emissions under these circumstances.
Similar sentiments exist within the Christian community, which largely agrees that people have a responsibility to care for God's creation but are divided over the existence and the cause of global warming.
According to Pew, 44 percent of White non-Hispanic evangelicals say the earth is warming.
And among those who believe, there is further disagreement over its causes.
While 56 percent of global warming believers say humans are to blame for climate change, 34 percent would argue that global warming is caused naturally by changes such as alternations in the Earth's orbit and solar energy and solar wind output.
In general, the Pew Center found that fewer than four-in-ten (36 percent) Americans say global warming is mostly caused by human activity such as burning fossil fuels, while 16 percent say it is occurring mostly because of natural environmental patterns.
In regards to public concern, the survey found that a majority (65 percent) of the public continues to view global warming as a very (35 percent) or somewhat (30 percent) serious problem.
For the survey, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press interviewed 1,500 adults over cell phones and landlines Sept. 30-Oct. 4.