Skip Navigation

Survey: Many Americans Still Skeptical Scientists Understand Climate Change

November 4, 2016

A Pew Research Center survey indicates a majority of Americans do not believe scientists understand the causes or consequences of climate change well.

An October 4 survey by the Pew Research Center of 1,534 U.S. adults reports nearly three-quarters of Americans don’t believe there is a large “scientific consensus” among climate scientists that humans are causing climate change.

In addition, according to Pew’s survey Americans are almost equally split over the question of whether humans are causing climate change, with nearly half of those polled, 48 percent, saying Earth is warming due to human activity, while 51 percent believe warming and other changes are either due to natural causes or there is no solid evidence Earth is warming at all.

Only 33 percent of Americans believe climate researchers “understand very well” whether climate change is even occurring. Just 28 percent of those polled say scientists “understand very well” the causes of climate change and only 19 percent say scientists know the best way to respond to climate change.

Oddly, two-thirds of those polled believe climate scientists should have a major role in shaping climate policy, despite believing climate scientists’ research is driven more by their political leanings (27 percent) or their desire to advance their careers (36 percent) than by the best available research (32 percent).

According to the Pew survey a majority of Americans distrust the news media’s coverage of climate change, with 51 percent saying the media does a “bad job” covering the issue. This high level of distrust comes as increasing numbers of mainstream news outlets refuse to cite or quote in their coverage of the issue scientists and scholars who doubt humans are causing catastrophic climate change.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (hsburnett@heartland.org) is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

INTERNET INFO

Cary Funk and Brian Kennedy, “The Politics of Climate,” Pew Research Center Survey, October 4, 2016: https://www.heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/pew-research-center-the-politics-of-climate

Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org