Americans hazy on climate change, says report

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Most Americans have a very poor understanding of climate change, according to Yale University researchers, who grade 52 percent as deserving an 'F' on the subject.

Most Americans have a very poor understanding of climate change, according to Yale University researchers, who grade 52 percent as deserving an 'F' on the subject.

While 63 percent of Americans believe that global warming is happening, they found, the majority don't understand why.

"This study demonstrates that Americans need to learn more about the causes, impacts and potential solutions to global warming," said study director Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale. "But it also shows that Americans want to learn more about climate change in order to make up their minds and take action."

The report, called 'Americans' Knowledge of Climate Change', found that only 57 percent know what the greenhouse effect is, only 45 percent understand that carbon dioxide traps heat from the Earth's surface, and just 50 percent understand - or agree - that global warming is caused mainly by human activities.

Most, apparently, have the idea that the hole in the ozone layer and aerosol spray cans cause global warming. Meanwhile, three quarters have never heard of the related problems of ocean acidification or coral bleaching.

However, there was a general understanding that emissions from cars and trucks and the burning of fossil fuels contribute to global warming and that a transition to renewable energy sources is an important solution.

And, to be fair, most people appear have a fairly good idea of their limitations. Only 1 in 10 believe that they are 'very well-informed' about climate change, with three-quarters saying they'd like to know more.

Likewise, 75 percent say that schools should teach children about climate change and 68 percent would welcome a national information campaign.

The report gives the nation a grade card for its knowledge. Eight percent get an 'A' - well done those chaps - with 40 percent getting a 'C' or 'D' and 52 percent an 'F'.