A strikingly higher percentage of Americans believe that the threat posed by global warming is exaggerated, a new Gallup survey found.
Nearly half of the public (48 percent) think that the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated, up from 41 percent in 2009 and 31 percent in 1997, when Gallup first asked the question. Gallup noted that the percentage of Americans who believe global warming is generally overblown is the highest on its record.
"The last two years have marked a general reversal in the trend of Americans' attitudes about global warming," reported Gallup. "[T]he public opinion tide turned in 2009, when several Gallup measures showed a slight retreat in public concern about global warming. This year, the downturn is even more pronounced."
The results are based on the annual Gallup Social Series Environment poll, conducted March 4-7 of this year. A random sample of 1,014 national adults, aged 18 and older were interviewed by telephone.
Although Americans think global warming has in general been exaggerated, the majority of the public still believe it is real. Fifty-thee percent say the effects of global warming have already begun or will occur in the next few years.
But the percentage has steadily dropped in recent years. In 2008, 65 percent believed the effects of global warming already began or will happen soon. That figure dropped to 58 percent last year, and now stands at 53 percent.
Meanwhile, 35 percent of Americans say that global warming will either never happen (19 percent) or will not happen in their lifetime (16 percent). By comparison, only 24 percent of the public held these views in 2008.
There was also a sharp change in American opinion on what causes global warming. Exactly half of the public believes that human activities are mainly responsible for the increase in the Earth's temperature over the last century. This is a significant drop from the 61 percent in 2007 that held this view and the 58 percent in 2008.
The percentage of Americans who believe the warming of the Earth is mostly due to natural changes in the environment has steadily increased in recent years.
In 2010, 46 percent hold this view, up from 38 percent in 2008 and 35 percent in 2007.
Americans also increasingly think that scientists themselves are unsure whether global warming is occurring. Thirty-six percent of the public this year said they think scientists are unsure about global warming, up from 26 percent in 2008.
Meanwhile, 52 percent said they think most scientists believe that global warming is occurring, down from 65 percent in 2008.
Gallup noted that the shift in Americans' opinion on global warming might reflect the events occurring in the world, including media scrutiny of allegations of scientific fraud relating to global warming evidence, and possibly the recent record-breaking snow and cold temperatures in parts of the United States.
Christians in recent years have increasingly become engaged in the global warming debate. The environmental issue has been packaged in a way Christians can understand, using religious terms such as creation care and good stewardship of the Earth. It is unclear how the recent climate change scandal and historic blizzards have affected the attitude of Christians toward global warming.