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Trump isn’t alone: 12 percent of Americans think climate change isn’t real

American's aren't sold on Trump's big Paris climate agreement decision.


Andrew Couts


Posted on Jun 20, 2017   Updated on May 23, 2021, 2:27 am CDT

Only 12 percent of Americans doubt the existence of climate change, a new poll has found—just slightly more than the number of people who believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows.

An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey published on Tuesday found that Americans overwhelmingly believe Earth’s climate is warming, but only a narrow majority (52 percent) disagree with President Donald Trump‘s decision to pull the United States from the global Paris Climate Accord.

The slim minority of voters who don’t believe in climate change have at least one person in power who likely agrees with them. Trump has repeatedly expressed skepticism about climate change, going so far as to call it a “hoax” invented by the Chinese. The White House has consistently failed to answer whether the president still holds that belief and has offered no reason or evidence to suggest he does not.

Rick Perry, Trump’s secretary of the Department of Energy, is also skeptical about the science behind climate change. Asked on Monday during an interview on CNBC’s Squawk Box whether he believes CO2 is a primary contributor to climate change—as is the scientific consensus—Perry responded: “No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in.”

Trump announced his plan to pull out of the Paris climate agreement at the end of May on the grounds that it would hamper the American economy. The AP-NORC poll found that not everyone is buying that argument: 78 percent of Democrats believe the opposite to be true—that exiting the agreement, not staying in it, will hurt the U.S. economy. Forty percent of Republicans say it will not impact the U.S. economy, 24 percent say it will hurt the economy, and 34 percent believe it will be beneficial.

Independent voters are roughly split on the Paris climate agreement, with 25 percent approving of Trump’s decision, 36 percent opposing, and 37 percent unsure.

The Paris climate agreement, established under the United Nations, is a non-binding pact that includes nearly 200 countries around the globe. Each country set its own goals for combating climate change and reducing greenhouse gases, believed to contribute to global warming.

Across the board, 70 percent of respondents said they are “very” or “moderately” concerned about the effects of climate change. And 68 percent are “very” or “moderately” concerned that withdrawing from the Paris agreement will stifle the global effort to combat global warming. Fifty-three percent say climate change is an important issue to them.

At least 97 percent of published climate scientists agree that the Earth’s climate is warming, according to NASA, and many scientific organizations say human activity is one of the top contributing factors. “The global warming of the past 50 years is due primarily to human-induced increases in heat-trapping gases,” the U.S. government’s Global Change Research Program concluded in 2013. “‘Human fingerprints’ also have been identified in many other aspects of the climate system, including changes in ocean heat content, precipitation, atmospheric moisture, and Arctic sea ice.”

The American public is more skeptical: 65 percent believe “climate change is happening,” while 12 percent say it is not happening. Twenty-three percent are still unsure.

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*First Published: Jun 20, 2017, 1:08 pm CDT