A new study by Yale and George Mason Universities shows that public concern about global warming has dropped sharply since the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December. As WNPR's John Dankosky reports, some Yale student scientists are still optimistic, despite the falling public support for their research.
Only a few years after former Vice President Al Gore won a Nobel Prize, and worldwide acclaim, for leading a global fight against climate change, it seems Americans have cooled on the issue.
The study shows that only 50% of Americans now say they're "somewhat" or "very" worried about global warming, that's a 13% decrease since Fall of 2008. The percentage of American who think it's happening at all has dropped 14 points to only 57%.
It also shows public opinion drifting away from belief that humans are causing global warming, and away from trust in scientists.
The survey was conducted after the controversial Copenhagen Summit, and following weeks of "climate gate" controversy, surrounding scientists who were said to have "cooked the numbers" to support their climate change positions.
But Kasey Jacobs, a graduate student in Environmental Science at Yale, told WNPR's Where We Live that she thinks public opinion can come back around - in time to push through substantive climate change legislation in Congress.
"People are concerned... and I don't think that's changed in the last two or three months. Maybe nationwide, maybe when just talking specifically about climate change and global warming. But, when you really talk to people about the issues, they want action. And, I think as that happens, and there's more awareness raising, and there's more programs on TV and more celebrities talking about it, I think we can get that momentum back up to where we need it to be to pass a good bill."
Jacobs' colleague, Alark Saxena, said that despite the sagging interest in the U.S., people in other countries are still very concerned about the impacts of climate change.
"Yes, the perceptions change, priorities change, but at the same time, to be honest, I felt that Copenhagen becoming such a huge event was a positive step toward we becoming really more and more and more interested toward environmental issues. And, environmental issues becoming the forefront of many developmental challenges."
Saxena and Jacobs were part of a large Yale university contingent at the Copenhagen Summit.
For WNPR, I'm John Dankosky.