NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Is the Public Cooling on Global Warming?

July 8, 1999

Americans are losing interest in environmental problems, according to a report from Public Agenda commissioned by the American Geophysical Union. The report on changes in public opinion found that fewer people are worried about water pollution, toxic waste, ozone layer damage and global warming. For example,

  • The proportion of Americans who said they worried "a great deal" about air pollution fell from 63 percent in 1989 to 47 percent in 1997.
  • Between 1989 and 1997 the percentage of people who said they worried a great deal about global warming dropped from 35 to 24.
  • And a late 1998 poll showed that while slightly more than half consider themselves "sympathetic" to "environmental concerns," only 12 percent consider themselves active environmentalists.

Observers say that the public is either reacting to noticeable improvements in the environment or is realizing things were never as bad as they were told. Specifically, people are beginning to challenge the assertions of politicians and environmental activists who blame global warming for the latest weather phenomenon.

"There is a limit to how long you can push this," warns Massachusetts Institute of Technology meteorology professor Richard Lindzen. It becomes a joke," he adds.

So what is the public's attitude toward global warming?

A survey in the Public Agenda report found that while half of Americans think global warming will be a future problem, only about a fourth think it is a problem now, and the other fourth think it will never have an impact or have no opinion.

Source: Michael Fumento (Hudson Institute), "Cooling Off on Global Warming," Washington Times, July 8, 1999.


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