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. But ARE extreme weather events increasing? I’d be fascinated to see your data on that because as far as I know there is none. PERCEPTION of extreme weather events has clearly increased, and indeed that is what the rest of your article talks about exclusively. But PERCEPTION and REALITY are not the same thing.

    Perception of extreme weather has increased due to the effectiveness of modern global mass communication, and due to recent overblown media coverage of extreme weather events (cough cough Irene). However if you look at the statistics, for example with regard to Hurricanes, you’ll see recent decades have not been unusual.

  2. I am not a climate change denier (far from it – I work in the solar industry). But to consider Irene and “extreme weather event” is laughable. This has been a very light hurricane season, and Irene was pretty minor compared to many hurricanes that hit the US prior to the industrial revolution.

    So, let’s stay focused on the data. Every time we use an individual event as justification, the deniers get to do the same (see how cold the winter was last year!).

  3. Sundance

    The “rise in extreme weather” is nothing more than a contrived meme by journalists whose other scare climate scare stories are falling apart. There is no scientific data that can support that either hurricanes or tornadoes have gotten any worse than in the past after all factors, like population and technology (ability to detect storms) that inflate storm detection, are accounted for and adjusted so that apples are compared to apples. Flood damage has been exasorbated by man’s tinkering with nature. We populate more flood plains areas by using dams and other artificial means (ex: farming tiles) to redirect water and then wonder why more floods are occurring when the water can no longer occupy the space it always has when we get rain. It is man’s hubris in his need to live by the shore that is ruining coastal areas. The coastal problems in the Carolinas are not due to sea level rise but rather the sinking of the land from population that keeps pumping water from underneath them and the beach erosion that occurs from building sea walls that protect property and prevent the coast from evolving naturally as it did before man interferred. The Royal Society has waded through millions of bits of data to amass the most comprhensive analysis of man originated impact on the atmosphere spanning 1871 to present day and found no significant contribution from man.

    I am very surprised by the Chinese shift of opinion. Latin America I fully understand because their is a greater number of countries where political leaders control the message and prevent the scientific findings and data which point to increasing uncertainty in the science (feedbacks) and the divergence from reality in models that now look to be missing some critical aspects of what impacts climate.

  4. addicted44

    I don’t believe the comment “If there is 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.” is true.

    The Southern and South-Western states in the US have been experiencing extended and unprecedented droughts for several years now, and they continue to be the least likely to be worried about climate change.

  5. Thanks for the post Katie,
    everyone knows that Hurricanes feed off heat higher water temperatures mean more water vapor hence more precipitation. This year the temperatures in the Atlantic on Irene’s path were 1-3 F degrees higher than normal. If the temperature increases due to global warming, it will mean the difference between 10 of deaths and Billions of dollars to thousands of deaths and possibly even $Trillions, if the it strikes heavily populated Areas like NY.

  6. Carlos A Aguilar

    Burning fuel for transportation and goods manufacture was a great invention and brought wonderful prosperity. When we reached 1 BILLION cars cruising daily in our planet (August 18, 2011 Discovery News) and industrial pollution, 70 million tons of CO2 sent daily to our atmosphere, it is time to get more efficient and stop so much burning. We must protect what we have. This is our gift, our Garden to work it and take care of it. The air all creatures breath, our common union, our common life.

  7. EV News

    WOW! Put “climate change” in the title and all the loons with Google alerts come flocking in! Despite Irrefutable Signs That Climate Change Is Real these OLDER generation types still don’t get it! These twits all act like they’re on the Koch payroll?

  8. 229Mick

    “Not surprisingly, consumers in Latin America are making the connection”
    Between a global tax on ‘carbon’ and them getting the money?? If it’s real, why is the problem taking MY money and giving it to someone else? If carbon-dioxide is suddenly a ‘dangerous gas’ as our criminal president had is ‘EPA’ declare, then why not make people and companies plant trees? That takes carbon-dioxide and makes oxygen. Perfect. Nope,the reason that’s not the solution, is because that is NOT the problem. The problem is people aren’t stupid enough to give more money to global governance on their own.

    Man made global warming… Sorry, ‘climate change’ is a lie. BTW, when did they change the name? Oh yea, after several years of cooling trend)

  9. There is plenty of data supporting global warming. There is also data that debunks it too. There is data out there that I am a super model hunk that has the looks of Brad Pitt and the body of an Adonis. See…just ask my wife. Anyone can write some paper saying that they have found evidence of any wacky theory. Most of the time, it’s just the data they want you to see. They have no control data.
    Back in the late 80’s, we were led to believe that air conditioning coolent was bad for the ozone. So the government put restrictions on the coolent at the time and set groundwork for new more ozone friendly coolent. Ironically enough, the company that came up with the more ozone friendly coolent and the process to reclaim the old coolent was DuPont. They were the same ones who conducted the research saying the old refrigerant was oh so so bad. At least that’s what I read. See, it goes both ways.
    I can’t stress enough that I do believe that we need new energy policies and much more research. But fear mongering articles like this will not accomplish that. The ground we stand on used to be buried in 100’s of feet of ice. What was the cause of the global warming that melted that huge ice cap? Anyone? Must have been the wooly mammoth droppings that put a large amount of methane into the atmosphere and we all know methane is a greenhouse gas. Must be true because I just wrote it. Maybe I should apply for a grant and rip off the powers that be with shortsighted science and outlandish hypothesis.

    • Before you start either having your say either for or against climate change, it is a good idea to know what you are talking about. Whan talking about HVAC, the mediums used for this are termed refrigerants…….and if you had the slightest knowledge of chemistry you would know what the effect of CFC’s and HCFC’s have on the ozone layer and why ozone depleteing substances are banned in countries, where governments have even a modicum of sense, they have banned the use of CFC’s and HCFC’s.
      There is a well known saying “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”

      • Well…your absolutely right. But you completely missed the point of my post. If you would learn to read between the lines maybe you would have gotten the point. So let me spell it out for your simpleton mind.
        My point was that to show that just because you read it on the net by an agenda driven author doesn’t make it so. Just because you hear something from a biased individual doesn’t make it fact or make that person an authority on that particular subject. This is the exact reason for starting the post as I did, inserting “At least that’s what I read. See it goes both ways.” after my rant on CFC’s, and ended it with my mammoth droppings theory.
        So…I suggest that you take a literature class and learn not to read every word in such a literal sense.

  10. tesla_x

    As I have been saying for years….its the SUN stupid.

    Nobody is buying the Climate Fraud anymore….except for the ones paid and compensated by the perpetration of the Fraud…

    Because of the CERN experiment, gagged scientists or not, the TRUTH is out.

    This is also a validation of the work done by Dr. Richard Lindzen, s his data clearly showed that human activity as a driver of ‘global warming’ was statistically insignificant.

    What will the Enviro-Culty Nutter types like Gore do now?

    Maybe they’ll just put out more commercials of slaughtered children like did?

    Frankly, I can’t wait till someone grows a pair of testicles in the Attorney General’s office starts prosecuting Grant and Funding Fraud…it is a White Collar Crime after all, and theft of PUBLIC FUNDS.

  11. With one billion cars cruising our planet. (August 18, Discovery News). Common sense; 70 million tons of CO2 sent daily to the atmosphere is going to have a greenhouse effect and therefore an energy unbalance. All do our part to live in harmony.