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Leon Kaye headshot

This Summer Made Americans Get It: Yes, Climate Change is a Thing

By Leon Kaye
climate change

The headlines this summer have summed up what many of us have been feeling for the past several weeks: It’s hot as hell and we really don’t want to take it anymore. Even if many Americans still don’t want to acknowledge that climate change is real, many are noticing that something is up in the air, and it isn’t pretty.

The research and insights firm Civic Science has been keeping tabs on Americans’ attitudes about climate change, and the numbers that its staff has been crunching are revealing. For one thing, as with any problem such as climate change, the deal is not what you’re asking, but how you’re asking it.

Take this question, for example: “How concerned are you right now about climate change and the environment?” Five years ago, there was a 56 to 44 split in who was concerned versus not (or hardly) concerned. That 12-point gap isn’t overwhelming, but that’s not a surprise considering what happened in the 2016 presidential election. But by 2020, those who were concerned about climate change outpolled those not concerned by more than a two-to-one margin. But this year, the gap has narrowed by eight points. That decrease shouldn’t be too shocking, as headlines about Ukraine and price hikes are front and center on the minds of much of the U.S. public.

But when asked if people have “noticed different weather” in the past year, those who’ve noticed a difference outpoll those who have noticed little or nothing by a 20-point gap. So, if they aren’t believing it, they’re feeling it — and interestingly enough, folks in the U.S. west by far, Midwest, and southern states (albeit slightly) are more concerned about climate change than Americans living in northeastern U.S. states.

Civic Science’s researchers have also witnessed an uptick in concern about climate change over the past few weeks — par for the course as cities from Austin to Boston have set record high temperatures this summer. 

Polling on climate change has been all over the place, though most surveys have revealed more of an age gap in attitudes toward climate change than a political gap. On that point, politicians seemed to have gotten the message, based on the behind-the-scenes urgency that led to Capitol Hill’s progress on the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, i.e., the latest version of the climate bill.

But it’s time for the business community to get on message, too. The reality is that we’ve been long past hearing about climate goals for 2030, and let’s face it: Net-zero promises for 2040 or 2050 will only open the doors to more mockery and mistrust from the public. Bottom line, your stakeholders, especially younger citizens, want to know what your company is doing now. After all, younger citizens will be the ones who will experiences summers with more days of scorching temperatures as the world lurches toward mid-century without any meaningful climate action plan

Image credit: Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

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