Blog Post

Extreme weather rages, but not concerns over climate change

Looks like the global rise in extreme weather events (cough, Irene) hasn’t been enough to make Americans more concerned about the issue of climate change. But extreme weather has been causing certain regions, particularly with dry, hot climates, to worry more about climate change. Essentially, if extreme weather particularly effects your region, you’re going to be far more worried about it — guess that’s human nature.

According to a Nielsen poll (s nlsn) of 25,000 online consumers from 51 countries, 69 percent of respondents say they are concerned about climate change, up slightly from 66 percent in 2009, but down from 72 percent in 2007. Respondents in the U.S. and China were less concerned about climate change in 2011 than in the past, while respondents in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa were more worried about climate change in 2011.

Other issues to worry about

In particular, only 48 percent of Americans in the recent poll say they are concerned about climate change, which represented one of the sharpest declines (at 14 percentage points) in concern about climate change between 2007 and 2011 compared to respondents in other countries. Americans are far more concerned about debt, rising gas prices, and the economy, said Nielsen U.S. SVP Consumer & Shopper Insights Todd Hale.

Chinese consumers also were less concerned about climate change in the latest poll, and 64 percent said they were concerned in 2011, compared to 77 percent in 2009 (a drop of 17 percent).

For regions with respondents that were less concerned about climate change, other environmental issues also grew in prominence over climate change. For example, environmental concerns like air pollution, use of pesticides, water pollution, packaging waste and water shortages.

Where & why people are worried

In contrast to the declines in concern in the U.S. and China, the study found that concern over climate change increased in Latin America to 90 percent in 2011, up from 85 percent in 2009. In the Middle East and Africa concern over climate jumped to 80 percent in 2011, from 69 percent in 2009 — the highest increase regionally.

Not surprisingly, consumers in Latin America are making the connection between the extreme weather events there and climate change. Says Nielsen Latin America President Arturo García:

Latin America has experienced a number of distressing and impactful environmental events over the last several years, and the region’s consumers are increasingly attributing these events to broad climate change. People are expressing clear concern about unusual weather patterns including increased rainfall, hurricanes, and floods in some parts of Latin America, and severe droughts in others.

Likewise in Africa and the Middle East, people are making the link. Nielsen Egypt Managing Director Ram Mohan Rao says:

The hot and dry climates in many Middle Eastern and African countries and the widely held perception that temperatures are rising every summer has likely led to an increased concern about climate change and weather variation.

Closer to home

If there’s a continued increase in extreme weather events in the U.S., I think concern over climate change will also increase here the U.S., too. Even when rhetoric in political circles has seemed to move away from a discussion around climate change, if the weather gets extreme enough locally, it will be hard not to make the connection. 2010 is looking to be the most extreme weather year on record.

Even if Americans don’t end up having all that much first-hand experience with an increase in these major disasters over the next few years, the influx of photos, videos and news stories (available 24/7 on the web) of people increasingly dying or losing their property in extreme weather events is, could be a persuasive factor. Al Gore thinks so; he’s turning to the intersection of digital media and extreme weather to launch a new social movement called the Climate Reality Project, which will live stream content that shows how extreme weather has affected people’s lives and will take place Sept. 14 and 15.

Of course, weather events like hurricane Irene can’t solely be attributed to climate change, but scientists generally are willing to say they think hurricanes will get more extreme thanks to climate change. But we’ll have to see how extreme and prevalent these storms need to be to convince more Americans to become worried about climate change.

Image courtesy of NASA Goddard, Photo and Video, Undertow 851, brownpau, and Matt and Kim Rudge.

50 Responses to “Extreme weather rages, but not concerns over climate change”

  1. Global warming, er….I mean climate change, is such a farce. For those that believe we humans are to “blame” for the normal change in weather patterns, a need to take a class in critical thinking skills and look at the info from non “conventional” sources is in order. It is all about controlling populations, and $$ thru carbon credits.

  2. WorkingOne

    The climate on planet Earth has been changing for 4.5 billion years. Is there anything mankind can do about it? Nothing I have seen says “yes”. If 1/2 the population dies and the other 1/2 moves into mud huts we have, maybe, a 0.1 degree lower projected average global temperature in a 100 yrs.

    I doubt that is even measurable with today’s technology and I am certain it is well below the accuracy of any models currently being used.

    So get a life and be “concerned” about something you can do something about.

  3. I feel sorry for humans that cannot read history and actually go around worrying that we are powerful enough to transform the climate with our existence. People like BKraus down there that actually think that is what is taught regarding Christianity – and how that is somehow connected to a changing climate.

  4. Anyone of my age, mid 50s, who does not agree that they have seen the climate change from when they were children are in denial. That doesn’t mean that they have seen changes that have been significantly affected by man. When I was 20, the air pollution in the US was much worse than it is now, and summers in areas where I grew up were much warmer in the summer and colder in the winter than they are now. Now those areas have changed as have areas where I live now. Looking at the climate from a geologists perspective, I see changes historically regardless of mankind. What can we blame the large inland seas of the Miocene on? Not man. The glaciers in California and their retreat, not man…. Yes, the climate changes and we should do all we can to not pollute but not ultimately to the detriment of our civilization.

  5. John Ellingson

    Climate change has cured the extreme weather. Before this global warming started (30,000 years ago) much of the northern hemisphere was under more than a mile of ice — locked in perpetual winter.

  6. aloha11

    Climate change will not concern the American public, because accepting it would challenge peoples long held philosophy of making a fast buck or two, no matter the social or enviromental costs.

    The situation reminds my of books on World War I. Prior to this conflict peace conferences have been a laughing stock to the public, war between great nations was considered normal and healthy. Only now, A century later, after the atrocities of the 20th century, we try diplomacy first.

    Today conferences on climate change are a laughing stock of no concern to the ill-informed public, no matter the obvious consequences. Lakes disapear, like in Darfur, and people start killing each other over water.

    Have you lately googled pictures of the arctic ice shield from the 70s and today…. 30% of the ice is already gone.

    But hey, like the two comments below clearly prove, people who spend their time in physics and math class checking out the blond next to them suddenly turn into experts on topics well beyond their academic reach…

    • searchen

      could you explain your diplomacy thing a little better, it seems to me this nation has been in war more of my lifetime then its been out, education by propaganda seems to make that fact disapear along with the natural changes in weather,

  7. Lol this article is nonsense. I would be more likely to heed these dire warnings if somebody could explain what “climate change” is? It used to be global warming, and I’ve even heard global cooling before that. Hey, call me cynical but it seems that “climate change” is an excellent way to scare the bejesus out of people and get them to pay carbon taxes and if you need proof, anytime there are any significant weather events we can blame it on “climate change.”

  8. Dave Nine

    (cough, Irene.) Are you serious? It’s a hurricane. During “hurricane season”. How low will you go? How dumb do you think your audience is? It’s getting really stupid.

  9. Wow apparently hurricanes during hurricane season = increased extreme weather (a Cat 1/ Tropical storm-=extreme?) and yeah the drought? Remember the thing you may have learned about in Elementary school called the Dust Bowl… Pretending to know the natural limits of Earths weather capabilities with such a limited history on global data is naive and ignorant…

  10. Here we go again!! A hurricane hits the eastern seaboard and you people start screaming global warming is the cause. There is a reason why America is not as concerned about global warming is that WE HAVE MORE IMMEDIATE AND CRITICAL ISSUES LIKE KEEPING OUR HOMES AND FEEDING OUR KID IN THIS DISASTEROUS ECONOMY!!!!!
    You all are telling us to wake up. Well…news flash for ya!!! Hurricanes have been hitting the eastern seaboard since before we got here and they are gonna keep hitting the east coast when we are gone!!! You pompous dumbasses think that we are some great scar on the face of time and space. Well, believe it or not, the human race is nothing but a pimple on the right butt cheek of Mother Nature. Explain to me how you morons can actually sit there and spew your crazy rhetoric and not ask yourselves one simple question: I wonder if a hurricane hit the east coast 15,000 years ago. I could say with almost 100% certainty that the answer would be YES!!
    You all follow Al Gore like he is some Messiah leading you to the promise land. This is the same jerk that claims he invented the “Internet”. Give me a break!!
    The Earth and universe is always changing and ever flowing. Our magnetic poles shift and sometime switch places. North is south and south becomes north. This has been proved though geological studies. Sometimes is just shifts back and forth between Canada and Siberia. This in turn affects our magnetic field and will believe it or not change weather patterns.
    The sun is a massive nuclear reactor 93 million miles away. Sometimes it Burns hotter than others. That has an affect too.
    You all wonder way people like myself are skeptical of your whole global warming issue? It is because of shortsighted, uninformed, and ridiculous conclusions you all jump to. Listen, I agree 100% with the fact that we as a society need to find better fuel sources for our needs. I agree with the fact that fossil fuels are NOT good for the environment and our future. But you can’t blame a weather event on global warming when that event has happened for eons! You might as well blame Microsoft or puppies for the ever terrifying tropical storm that skewed a bit further north that what we are use too. Think about it.

  11. William R. James

    Total BS! There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that weather events are any more or less extreme than historical norms or that magic CO2 is to blame for it. Every time there is a hurricane, or flood or any other event, cold or hot, the global warming parrots come out of the woodwork to parrot this pseudoscience nonsense. One would think that if there was any evidence to support the magic CO2 religion, someone would have found it and published it by now. But no, all we get are munged, “corrected” and faked “data”, not one of those peddling this religion has been willing to publish their actual raw data to be examined. Their method is identical to the creationists, start with a conclusion and then find or create “data” to fit it. That is NOT science. Americans aren’t concerned about the climate change hoax because we are tired or having our pockets picked over the scam and we aren’t such easy suckers. It’s that simple. The Kyoto scam is a prime example. How would transfer of wealth to third world dictators appease the magic CO2 gods anyway? That’s ALL the Kyoto scam would have done, after all. It wouldn’t have prevented the release of a single CO2 molecule. Even if you believe that “manmade” CO2 is magic and over rides the effect of water and solar radiation in determining Earth’s climate, you still have to find a way to explain how that scam would make a difference. Let’s instead concentrate on real problems, like prosecuting the scammers peddling this nonsense at taxpayer expense.

  12. “No matter if the science of global warming is all phony…climate change provides the greatest opportunity to bring about justice and equality in the world.” – Christine Stewart, former Canadian Minister of the Environment

  13. ClimateChangeIsBunk

    The rise of extreme weather events? Geez, they started predicting more hurricanes and the facts DID NOT bear it out. That is why the American public is not interested. The global change models are flawed and many more scientists have petitioned AGAINST this climate change debacle than there were supporting it. Get it right. Climate changes ISN’T about human interference with the environment, it’s about MONEY!

  14. “We’ve got to ride this global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic and environmental policy.” –Timothy Wirth, President of the UN Foundation

  15. “We need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination… So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements and make little mention of any doubts…Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.” – Prof. Stephen Schneider, Stanford Professor of Climatology, lead author of many IPCC reports

  16. Virgil H Castleberry

    I am not sure why this showed up in Google News “Science” Section, since, obviously, there is no science in it. First, Irene is not an example of extreme weather caused by climate change (do you mean global warming, or global cooling, or something?). Irene was a Category 1 storm whose damage will be more due to placement than power; we call Category 1 storms a “rainy day” down here in the South! This storm has nothing on Katrina, or even Kate from twenty years or more ago, and does not hold a candle to Camille in 69 or Andrew in 1992.

    Of all the misinformation that I have ever read on the internet, using Irene as an example of Climate Change is the most laughable.

    And then you wonder why people who can THINK, and see through these deceptions pay no attention to your dire claims of global warming. Oh, and we in America are less likely to believe you because we lived through the Global Cooling Scare of the early ’80’s that was predicted with the same charts and graphs and dire warnings as this round of climate change…

    Give it a break; the earth is doing what it does. Africa and Greenland may again be green, as they have in the past, long before man industrialized; the cycles continue, and man has little of no effect with his puny technology and burning of fossil fuel.

    Be more concerned about the poisons we produce than the Carbon!


  17. Yada yada yada. First it was global warming, but wait! It’s not really warming, it’s cooling too. So now the cry rings out, “Climate Charge!” Come on, get real

    Can you say, “Natural variation?” The climate does change-naturally. Yet the cry rings out, “We must prevent climate change!” Where’s the data? How do the so-called greenhouse gases cause both temperature increase and decrease and the climate variation that is claimed? Is not climate variation caused by natural events such as solar activity and volcanic activities? Instead of trying to prevent what we can’t, is it not better to focus on changing the things that we can by dealing with the normal variation of the climate and not trying to prevent the climate noise that is in the system?

  18. searchen

    I wish people would read a little about history before assuming east coast hurricanes are a sign of change, the earth has always either been in a warming or a cooling period, and the east coast including new england and southeastern canada historicly have had there share of hurricanes and tropical storms, for I do believe as humans we need to clean up are way of living and protect mother earth, but read some history and you will find hurricanes, floods, droughts and every other kind of natural disater has gone through severe and not so severe periods, I hope everyone that takes time to read the news will take time to read history before coming to conclusions

  19. BKrause

    The Earth is flat, revolves around the sun, and some divine entity created the whole thing in little more than 6000 years desiging humans who walked with dinosaurs and stand alone apart from the rest of creature life. So it is taught in Texas and therefore must be true.

  20. Marc Ferguson

    Hi Katie.

    Thanks for having the courage to publish the article. The declining concern in the U.S. is the result of one very disturbing trend. The scientific method, which by definition never leads to zero doubt, has now been twisted into a kind of sick version of ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ as applied in law i.e. if there is any doubt, then none of it is certain. This is the currency of the climate change denier crowd, which has now become a sort of litmus test of Conservatives. It has gone from the most pressing issue of our time to something that can’t be discussed in mixed crowds in public. We have totally lost our minds (and our science) and it is the embodiement of the Tea Party Conservatives that bear the blame. We’re screwed.

    Marc Ferguson

  21. Richard

    Some areas have bad, others have good weather. Okay, we understand that “climate change” is responsible for the former. What causes the latter? We need some “leading experts” to publish their explanation for both in a “peer reviewed” journal. LOL

  22. Why is it called climate change instead of global warming now? Seems weird they’d change the name to mean anything. I mean damn the wind changing direction counts as climate change. It’s a crock. I read these articles no numbers no facts. It’s emotional science. It’s how they feel about it. Well I feel it’s bs. Ps. All the people in the world can fit in warren and yahoo county in Mississippi. Every person has over 5 acres of land to them selves on earth. Crazy isn’t it? Overpopulation? These people make me sick. They think they can tell you what to think and they’re always right. I’m in high school and this crap is forced down my throat every day. I have proven my teachers wrong on almost everything said in that class with simple facts. Learn for your selves don’t be told. Do it yourself.

  23. Miami Mike

    Weather does not equal climate. Irene was a minimal hurricane and “demonstrates” nothing (other than all hurricanes can be dangerous). According to CERN, of the four drivers of climate change (cosmic rays, sun spots, volcano activity, and us), WE are the LEAST important and have the LEAST effect – and perhaps none. My car didn’t cause your drought, sorry, go blame something else.