The Sciences

Americans Flunk Global Warming

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyOct 15, 2010 5:58 PM

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Anthony Leiserowitz at Yale has new data out on the public and its bizarre and troubling relationship with climate science. To quote some of the findings:

* 57 % know that the greenhouse effect refers to gases in the atmosphere that trap heat; * 50 % of Americans understand that global warming is caused mostly by human activities; * 45 % understand that carbon dioxide traps heat from the Earth’s surface; * 25 % have ever heard of coral bleaching or ocean acidification. Meanwhile, large majorities incorrectly think that the hole in the ozone layer and aerosol spray cans contribute to global warming, leading many to incorrectly conclude that banning aerosol spray cans or stopping rockets from punching holes in the ozone layer are viable solutions.

I've actually heard this ozone hole misconception with some frequency when talking with people about global warming. Leiserowitz goes on to grade our countrymen and -women on their climate science scores: "only 8 percent of Americans have knowledge equivalent to an A or B, 40 percent would receive a C or D, and 52 percent would get an F." Think of it this way: Maybe in 20 years those scores will be a bit higher (or maybe not)--but the planet may be cooked by then.

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