More Americans than ever are worried about climate change — which isn't saying much

The bar is on the floor.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2021/12/11: A protestor seen holding a placard that says 'just stop oil' wh...
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We’re in a race against the clock to address climate change, lest we allow the planet’s temperature to rise so much that devastating storms and outlier weather conditions become the norm. The good news is that disastrous possibility appears to at least be resonating in the minds of Americans more than it ever has before — likely the result of the undeniable reality of bizarre events like snowstorms in Texas, heatwaves literally melting infrastructure, and seemingly permanent black clouds caused by record-setting wildfires across the West Coast.

The bad news is that we’re barely at a majority of folks who are truly worried about the climate crisis.

According to a new study conducted by Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, more Americans than ever consider themselves as “alarmed” by climate change. These people are described as believing that “global warming is happening, human-caused, [and] an urgent threat.”

One-third of the population, 33%, fall into this category. They are joined by 25% of the population who said they were “concerned,” defined as thinking “global warming is a significant threat but prioritize it less and are less likely to be taking action.” Another 17% of people are “cautious,” which means they are “aware of climate change but are uncertain about its causes and are not very worried about it.”

So, just for some clarity here: Seventy-five percent of Americans are at least aware of climate change. In the year 2022. Just 58% believe it to be a significant threat, and a mere 33% are actually prepared to do something about it. That is ... not super inspiring.

It probably shouldn’t be all that surprising that even as more Americans believe in the reality of climate change, they’re not super pressed to act on it. A previous study, also conducted by Yale, found that while 57% of Americans believe humans have a role in causing the planet to warm, just 43% believe that they will ever be affected by climate change. That ought to explain the gap in people actually willing to take action: Americans tend to be uninterested in doing anything about a problem until it has a direct impact on them.

Frankly, the fact that barely a majority of Americans are interested in addressing climate change, and that that’s the most support for the issue that we’ve ever seen, is a huge bummer. But if we’re digging for some true positives to pull from this study, how about this: Just 19% of Americans are “doubtful” or “dismissive” of climate change, and only 9% of those people flat out reject that it is happening.

That’s pretty good! Ish! It’s definitely not great, but hey, all things relative. America has always had a higher percentage of climate change deniers than any other country, and these groups have shrunk in the four years that Yale has been conducting its study — not by much, as both have dropped by 2%, but still. In that same time frame, the “alarmed” category has doubled. So more people are waking up. Too many are still hitting snooze, and the alarm is absolutely blaring at this point, but fewer people are rejecting that the alarm exists. So that’s something.