Lack of knowledge about climate change is leading to an overall lack of concern in the United States

Visitors at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China wear
masks to protect themselves from the haze and pollution.
Source: theSundaily
A recent study published in the journal Nature Climate Change shows that Americans lack knowledge about the causes of global warming, leading to less concern by U.S. citizens about the climate when compared to other countries. People in Canada, China, Germany, Switzerland and the United Kingdom all showed significantly more knowledge and interest in climate change, with China taking the lead by far.

Not all knowledge is equal- different types of knowledge determine the level of concern

The international study found that only knowledge about the causes of global warming was indicative of concern about the subject, as opposed to knowledge about the physical characteristics of climate change. This distinction made a key difference for researchers accounting for multidimensional and cross-cultural factors in such a large and diverse pool of subjects. Overall, respondents who had a deeper understanding of the causes of climate change also had heightened concern, regardless of nationality.

The findings are supported by new polling out of Yale and George Mason Universities that show a direct correlation between the percentage of Americans who believe global warming is caused by humans and the percentage of Americans who are concerned about the issue. According to the poll, 56 percent of Americans believe global warming is caused by humans. Similarly, 57 percent of Americans say they are "very" or "somewhat" concerned about global warming. While these figures are a drastic improvement from just two years ago, the United States still has a long way to go before matching other countries' agreement with the overwhelming scientific consensus about climate change.

Only 16-percent of registered voters in the U.S. understand the scientific consensus about climate change
Source: Yale

The Yale/George Mason poll also showed severe discrepancies between voters of different political affiliations. Just four percent of all republicans were aware of the scientific consensus that human activity is affecting the rate of global warming. On the other end of the spectrum, 26-percent of all Democrats and 23-percent of all Independents understand the consensus. The most scientifically-aware group, the liberal democrats, showed that just 38-percent believed or understood the consensus.

While understanding of the issue is low, most Americans prefer a political candidate who will take action on climate change

While knowledge and concern among Americans is low when compared to other developed countries, there is some indication that voters in the United States are taking the issue of climate change seriously by the way they cast their ballot. According to a 2016 poll, 23-percent were much more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who strongly supports taking action to reduce global warming. A close 19-percent said they were somewhat more likely to vote for that candidate, while only 15-percent were less likely. Alternatively, 33-percent of respondents said they were much less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who strongly opposes action to reduce global warming, with 13-percent saying they were somewhat less likely. Only 10-percent of Americans would be more likely to vote for this type of candidate. While the overall concern about climate change still puts the United States at the back of the pack, there is some indication that Americans’ voting tendencies may be more progressive than our knowledge would suggest.

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