Posted by: Sara Shipley Hiles | July 10, 2009

Pew survey: Public, scientists disagree about climate change reality

It’s not really surprising to hear that the general public and scientists have different views of climate change. But a new Pew survey spells it out.

The recent survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society. Find details here.

It found that 84 percent of scientists say that Earth’s climate is warming thanks to human activity, such as burning fossil fuels. But just 49 percent of the public surveyed agreed with that statement.

More specifically, most Americans (85%) say the Earth is warming, but a little less than half (46%) think it’s due to human activity; about a third (36%) think it’s due to natural variation; and about a tenth (11%) see no convincing evidence of global warming.

By contrast, 84% of scientists say the earth is warming because of human activity; only 10 percent say it’s due to natural changes, and just 4 percent say there’s no evidence of climate change.

According to the survey results, 70 percent of scientists regard global warming as a very serious problem, compared to 47 percent of the public.

The study also found a strong correlation between political party and views on global warming. A majority of Republicans say the warming is natural or not happening at all, whereas most Democrats say the warming is man-made. More college graduates also believed in human-caused climate change, whereas high school graduates were more divided.

Scientists weren’t terribly keen on media coverage. Most scientists said the news media did not distinguish legitimate findings from illegitimate ones, and about half said the media oversimply scientific findings.

The survey also included a 12-item quiz about general scientific knowledge. To take the quiz online, click here.

Read coverage of the survey in the New York Times here.

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