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Survey shows shifting viewpoints on climate change


Many Americans appear to have changed their minds when it comes climate change.

A survey released last week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and NPR found 70% of the U.S. sees climate change as crisis and a major problem.

More than 3 in 4 U.S. adults report being personally affected by extreme weather events and a quarter say extreme weather caused serious health problems.

People are also recognizing the ties between that extreme weather and climate change.

That’s a significant change says Alonzo Plough, chief science officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“That’s a shift from the way people thought four/five years ago that this is some kind of distant problem around polar bears and melting ice caps,” said Plough. “That’s all true and all important but that seems a bit abstract compared to the flood in your neighborhood.”

More people are also recognizing how climate change can create serious health and financial problems.

Things like wildfire smoke or extreme heat leads to increased hospitalizations.

People of color were far more likely to report serious health problems as a result of those events.

Of those who experienced an extreme weather event in the past 5 years, 51% of Native Americans said they experienced serious health problems as a result.

The damage caused by these storms can cost home and property owners.

Plough says research has shown the impact of climate change can be even more detrimental in rural areas.

“Many, many rural areas are bearing the brunt of this both, where you are in the upper Midwest, but in California in the rural agricultural central valley. A disproportionate impact of these kind of weather-related events on health and well-being,” he said.

There is still time to reduce our carbon footprint and prevent even more catastrophic consequences of climate change.

Much of that will be up to governments making policy changes. But it can also be done at a local level.

Plough encourages changes like switching to an electric car when it’s time to buy a new one or local governments installing more solar panels.

“All levels can respond, from city, local individuals to state and federal. But ultimately, it’s going to take many coordinated activities to reverse the impacts of climate change that it’s having on our health right now,” said Plough.

He’s hoping it will lead to significant change. Plough says now is the time push governments to make that change.

“Just demand the changes that need to happen locally, statewide, and nationally. There’s a broad constituency for this. A majority of people believe the climate science, which is perfectly solid. Don’t allow important health issues like this to be politized,” he said.

You can view the report here.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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