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75% of Americans now believe humans fuel climate change

Two recent polls underscore Americans' shifting attitudes on climate change.

  • The polls were conducted by CBS News and The Washington Post with the Kaiser Family Foundation.
  • Both indicate that more Americans believe humans cause climate change, with roughly half saying it's a "crisis."
  • It's unclear what exactly is changing Americans' opinions on climate change, but young people seem to play a significant part in the shift.


A strong majority of Americans believe humans are fueling climate change, with roughly half of respondents saying action is urgently needed, according to two recent polls.

The results come from a CBS News Poll, which was released as part of Covering Climate Now, and another unrelated poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). The CBS poll found that, among Americans:

  • About 70 percent believe human activity contributes "a lot" or "some" to climate change.
  • About 56 percent believe humans should act on climate change "right now."
  • About 48 percent believe humans can "slow, but not stop" climate change.
  • About 64 percent agreed climate change is a "serious problem/crisis."
  • About 91 percent believe the earth is experiencing climate change in some way.

The Washington Post-Kaiser poll indicated that, among Americans:

  • About 80 percent say human activity is fueling climate change.
  • About 40 percent say climate change is a "crisis," which is "up from less than a quarter five years ago," The Post reported.
  • About 40 percent say action to combat climate change must come in the next decade to avoid the worst consequences.
  • About 12 percent believe it's too late to avoid the disasters of climate change.

On the whole, the results suggest that an increasing share of Americans are recognizing climate change as a real and salient problem.

"Americans are finally beginning [to wake] up to the existential threat that the climate emergency poses to our society," said Margaret Klein Salamon, a clinical psychologist and founder of the Climate Mobilization Project. "This is huge progress for our movement – and it's young people that have been primarily responsible for that."

What explains Americans' changing attitudes on climate change? Whether it's rising temperatures, melting in the Arctic, extreme weather events, increased media coverage, President Donald Trump's rhetoric on climate change, or other factors entirely, is hard to say. But the results do suggest that young people have something to do with the shift.

The Post-Kaiser poll, for example, shows that American teenagers and young adults are particularly worried about the future of climate change, with 56 percent saying climate change makes them afraid, and about 70 percent believing that climate change will "cause a moderate or great deal of harm to people in their generation,"

Still, The Post-Kaiser poll showed that, like adults, many young Americans don't quite understand what's causing climate change or how to fix it. What's more, only about 1 in 4 young Americans say they've taken action on global warming, through, for example, recycling, reducing time in cars and using less plastic.

According to both polls, Republicans are less likely than Democrats to believe humans are fueling climate change. However, younger Republicans were significantly more likely to believe humans contribute to climate change, and also more likely to call it a "crisis." The CBS poll found that:

  • About 50 percent of Republicans under age 45 said climate change is a "crisis/serious problem," compared to 26 percent of those over age 45.
  • About 67 percent of Republicans under age 45 said humans contribute to climate change, compared to 45 percent of those over age 45.
  • About 67 percent of Republicans under age 45 agreed everyone has a personal responsibility to mitigate climate change, compared to 38 percent of those over age 45.

That many Americans still think there's a lack of consensus among scientists as to whether humans cause climate change is major problem, Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, told The Guardian.

"This remains a vitally important misunderstanding – if you believe global warming is just a natural cycle, you're unlikely to support policies intended to reduce carbon pollution, like regulations and taxes," Leiserowitz said. "These results also again confirm a longstanding problem, which is that many Americans still believe scientists themselves are uncertain whether human-caused global warming is happening.

"Our own and others' research has repeatedly found that this is a critical misunderstanding, promoted by the fossil fuel industry for decades, in order to sow doubt, increase public uncertainty and thus keep people stuck in the status quo, in a 'wait and see' mode."

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If you don't practice accountability at work you're letting the formula for success slip right through your hands.

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  • What is accountability? It's a tool for improving performance and, once its potential is thoroughly understood, it can be leveraged at scale in any team or organization.
  • In this lesson for leaders, managers, and individuals, Shideh Sedgh Bina, a founding partner of Insigniam and the editor-in-chief of IQ Insigniam Quarterly, explains why it is so crucial to success.
  • Learn to recognize the mindset of accountable versus unaccountable people, then use Shideh's guided exercise as a template for your next post-project accountability analysis—whether that project was a success or it fell short, it's equally important to do the reckoning.

What if Middle-earth was in Pakistan?

Iranian Tolkien scholar finds intriguing parallels between subcontinental geography and famous map of Middle-earth

Could this former river island in the Indus have inspired Tolkien to create Cair Andros, the ship-shaped island in the Anduin river?

Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission
Strange Maps
  • J.R.R. Tolkien himself hinted that his stories are set in a really ancient version of Europe.
  • But a fantasy realm can be inspired by a variety of places; and perhaps so is Tolkien's world.
  • These intriguing similarities with Asian topography show that it may be time to 'decolonise' Middle-earth.
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Giant whale sharks have teeth on their eyeballs

The ocean's largest shark relies on vision more than previously believed.

An eight-metre-long Whale shark swims with other fish at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium on February 26, 2010 in Motobu, Okinawa, Japan.

Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Japanese researchers discovered that the whale shark has "tiny teeth"—dermal denticles—protecting its eyes from abrasion.
  • They also found the shark is able to retract its eyeball into the eye socket.
  • Their research confirms that this giant fish relies on vision more than previously believed.
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A massive star has mysteriously vanished, confusing astronomers

A gigantic star makes off during an eight-year gap in observations.

Image source: ESO/L. Calçada
Surprising Science
  • The massive star in the Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy seems to have disappeared between 2011 and 2019.
  • It's likely that it erupted, but could it have collapsed into a black hole without a supernova?
  • Maybe it's still there, but much less luminous and/or covered by dust.

A "very massive star" in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy caught the attention of astronomers in the early years of the 2000s: It seemed to be reaching a late-ish chapter in its life story and offered a rare chance to observe the death of a large star in a region low in metallicity. However, by the time scientists had the chance to turn the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Paranal, Chile back around to it in 2019 — it's not a slow-turner, just an in-demand device — it was utterly gone without a trace. But how?

The two leading theories about what happened are that either it's still there, still erupting its way through its death throes, with less luminosity and perhaps obscured by dust, or it just up and collapsed into a black hole without going through a supernova stage. "If true, this would be the first direct detection of such a monster star ending its life in this manner," says Andrew Allan of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, leader of the observation team whose study is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

So, em...

Between astronomers' last look in 2011 and 2019 is a large enough interval of time for something to happen. Not that 2001 (when it was first observed) or 2019 have much meaning, since we're always watching the past out there and the Kinman Dwarf Galaxy is 75 million light years away. We often think of cosmic events as slow-moving phenomena because so often their follow-on effects are massive and unfold to us over time. But things happen just as fast big as small. The number of things that happened in the first 10 millionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, for example, is insane.

In any event, the Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy, or PHL 293B, is far way, too far for astronomers to directly observe its stars. Their presence can be inferred from spectroscopic signatures — specifically, PHL 293B between 2001 and 2011 consistently featured strong signatures of hydrogen that indicated the presence of a massive "luminous blue variable" (LBV) star about 2.5 times more brilliant than our Sun. Astronomers suspect that some very large stars may spend their final years as LBVs.

Though LBVs are known to experience radical shifts in spectra and brightness, they reliably leave specific traces that help confirm their ongoing presence. In 2019 the hydrogen signatures, and such traces, were gone. Allan says, "It would be highly unusual for such a massive star to disappear without producing a bright supernova explosion."

The Kinsman Dwarf Galaxy, or PHL 293B, is one of the most metal-poor galaxies known. Explosive, massive, Wolf-Rayet stars are seldom seen in such environments — NASA refers to such stars as those that "live fast, die hard." Red supergiants are also rare to low Z environments. The now-missing star was looked to as a rare opportunity to observe a massive star's late stages in such an environment.

Celestial sleuthing

In August 2019, the team pointed the four eight-meter telescopes of ESO's ESPRESSO array simultaneously toward the LBV's former location: nothing. They also gave the VLT's X-shooter instrument a shot a few months later: also nothing.

Still pursuing the missing star, the scientists acquired access to older data for comparison to what they already felt they knew. "The ESO Science Archive Facility enabled us to find and use data of the same object obtained in 2002 and 2009," says Andrea Mehner, an ESO staff member who worked on the study. "The comparison of the 2002 high-resolution UVES spectra with our observations obtained in 2019 with ESO's newest high-resolution spectrograph ESPRESSO was especially revealing, from both an astronomical and an instrumentation point of view."

Examination of this data suggested that the LBV may have indeed been winding up to a grand final sometime after 2011.

Team member Jose Groh, also of Trinity College, says "We may have detected one of the most massive stars of the local Universe going gently into the night. Our discovery would not have been made without using the powerful ESO 8-meter telescopes, their unique instrumentation, and the prompt access to those capabilities following the recent agreement of Ireland to join ESO."

Combining the 2019 data with contemporaneous Hubble Space Telescope (HST) imagery leaves the authors of the reports with the sense that "the LBV was in an eruptive state at least between 2001 and 2011, which then ended, and may have been followed by a collapse into a massive BH without the production of an SN. This scenario is consistent with the available HST and ground-based photometry."

Or...

A star collapsing into a black hole without a supernova would be a rare event, and that argues against the idea. The paper also notes that we may simply have missed the star's supernova during the eight-year observation gap.

LBVs are known to be highly unstable, so the star dropping to a state of less luminosity or producing a dust cover would be much more in the realm of expected behavior.

Says the paper: "A combination of a slightly reduced luminosity and a thick dusty shell could result in the star being obscured. While the lack of variability between the 2009 and 2019 near-infrared continuum from our X-shooter spectra eliminates the possibility of formation of hot dust (⪆1500 K), mid-infrared observations are necessary to rule out a slowly expanding cooler dust shell."

The authors of the report are pretty confident the star experienced a dramatic eruption after 2011. Beyond that, though:

"Based on our observations and models, we suggest that PHL 293B hosted an LBV with an eruption that ended sometime after 2011. This could have been followed by
(1) a surviving star or
(2) a collapse of the LBV to a BH [black hole] without the production of a bright SN, but possibly with a weak transient."

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