Record heat, freakish storms and massive droughts may be shaping what a portion of the public believes about climate change. The gap between how credentialed scientists and the public view climate change is not growing, though it remains.
The firming of public opinion is important. While the overwhelming majority of trained scientists (97%) conclude that rising concentrations of heat trapping gas are raising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and acidifying oceans, American public opinion, during 2009-2011, was trending toward more skepticism and rejection of climate science.
New polling data from Stanford University and the Washington Post confirm that the past slide in support for climate science has stopped. More than 60% of Americans accept that temperatures are rising and want sensible action taken to address the issue. Approximately 25% do not believe climate change is real and reject mainstream science on the issue.
While the public is no longer growing more skeptical of climate science, a big opinion gap persists between scientists and the public. That opinion gap is approximately 37 percentage points.
About 60% of the public and 97% of credentialed scientists--creating a 37 percentage point gap--accept current scientific conclusions that 6 gasses trap heat, the concentrations of those gasses are rising in the atmosphere, that man's activity causes the increase in heat trapping gas, and that temperatures have already risen and will continue to increase, as the concentrations of heat trapping gas escalate. Moreover, individuals who reject climate science are disproportionately concentrated within the Republican party, a fact of political life with big affects.
Two data points to watch going forward are whether the opinion gap between the public and scientists close and whether climate opinion within the Republican party moves.