Americans Have Some Strange Ideas About What Causes Global Warming

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Large majorities of Americans incorrectly believe that completely irrelevant behavior would reduce global warming. For example, an astounding 67% believe that reducing toxic waste, or banning aerosol spray cans (69%) would be effective.

When asked which one action would do the most to reduce global warming, switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources was the action most selected – but by only 36% of those polled. Not so much because the remaining 65% agree on something that might do it better, but more that a great variety of wacky notions compete for the job.

These odd solutions come from misunderstanding about the causes. Majorities of Americans incorrectly believe that the hole in the ozone layer, or toxic wastes, or aerosol spray cans, volcanic eruptions, acid rain, and (thanks, Rush Limbaugh) the sun are to blame for global warming.

But even stranger – considering that Rush indoctrinates 20 million of us about the sun being the cause, so in sense, these are actually “educated” Americans – but almost half of Americans (49%) incorrectly believe that the space program contributes to global warming, something that I don’t believe Rush takes a position on.

An additional 43 percent incorrectly believe that if we stopped punching holes in the ozone layer with rockets, it would reduce global warming.

More than half incorrectly believe that while they are generating energy; nuclear power plants actually contribute to global warming.

There is hope though, for those of us in the business of spreading knowledge about the solutions to climate change. The many government-sponsored communications you see everywhere about the need to switch from the old incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent bulbs seems to have really paid off. A solid majority (69%) believes that changing light bulbs will stop global warming. Clearly these kinds of post-secondary public education efforts have had an effect.

And the Americans polled would agree. While they themselves got their information from television, for the most part, and would search on the internet if they wanted to get more information, 75% say that schools should teach our children about the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to global warming and (68%) that the government should establish programs to teach Americans about the issue.

Image: Thomas Hawke
Susan Kraemer@Twitter

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