Strength in Numbers

Latest “Six Americas” report shows a tripling of "Alarmed"climate awareness

January 17, 2020

11:44 am

Ten years ago, Americans who felt strongly about the need for climate action were in the minority. No longer. A November 2019 report from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication shows that six in ten (58%) Americans are now either “Alarmed” or “Concerned” about global warming. From 2014 to 2019, the proportion of “Alarmed” nearly tripled.

Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe shared this news on Twitter on January 16: accessed Jan 16 2020

Compared to previous versions, the 2019 proportion of Dismissive and Doubtful respondents decreased to 20 percent combined, with the “Alarmed” category gaining the most and nearing a full third (31 percent).

It’s encouraging news for those people who are more than ready to move past erroneous, false equivalence discussions about climate science consensus to work on solutions.

Research first published in 2008 categorized Americans into six groups along a spectrum, coined as “Six Americas,” based on the strength of climate change beliefs and support for actions to combat it. (Take this short online "Six Americas" quiz to see which group you most identify with.) 

The categories range from “Alarmed” at one end of the spectrum, and progress through “Concerned, Cautious, Disengaged, and Doubtful” to “Dismissive.

The results were based on a detailed questionnaire answered by 2,219 American adults.

The spread of awareness and motivation has moved significantly since 2008. When the first Global Warming's Six Americas study was released, a full third of respondents identified most with the “Concerned” category – aware  that the climate is changing, but not fully ready to commit to action.

This is how things looked then:

Figure from the 2008 "Global Warming's Six Americas" report

For context, these 2008 results came just two years after the 2006 release of “An Inconvenient Truth,” the slide-lecture-turned-film credited with raising public awareness and understanding of global warming.

This chart shows the shift over the past five years: 

Figure from the November 2019 "Global Warming's Six Americas" report

The implications are clear – a significant proportion of Americans are now not only convinced of the urgency for climate action. They are also motivated to take action.

Perhaps it’s time to rename this empowered group of Americans – who have strength in numbers – as “Activated.”

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