A study published Sept. 23 by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication (YPCCC) reveals how Texans differ from the nation in beliefs about global warming.
While the study found that that more Texans believe global warming is happening than the national average, the report also found that a smaller portion of Texans believed that global warming is caused mostly by human activities. Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the YPCCC and one of the authors of the survey, said the YPCCC conducts these surveys to “understand why some factors drive some people to be very engaged with the issue of climate change and others to be apathetic or dismissive of the issue.” The study is the most recent of a number of national and state surveys that the YPCCC has conducted to determine the beliefs and attitudes of Americans towards global warming.
The YPCCC decided to study attitudes in Texas because it is a hub for fossil fuel production and is politically conservative, Leiserowitz said. The center recently published similar studies on California, Colorado and Ohio. He said that governments, companies, environmental groups and the media, among others, can use the YPCCC’s surveys in their work.
Leiserowitz said he was surprised that so many Texans believed global warming was happening — 70 percent in the state compared to 63 percent nationally — given the conservative political leaning of the state. The greatest contrast with national data was whether there is consensus among the scientific community about global warming, with 47 percent of Texans believe that “there is a lot of disagreement among scientists” about whether global warming is happening or not, compared to 33 percent nationally.
“It is not surprising to me that respondents believe there is ‘a lot of disagreement among scientists,’” says David Skelly, professor of Ecology and associate dean for Research at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. “In the last few years, contention has been one of the very few themes that media outlets have covered with any regularity.”
Isidora Stankovic ’16, who lives in Houston said she thinks there is “confusion and disagreement” in Texas about the cause of global warming and scientific consensus about its existence.
Skelly pointed to a recent report released by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as the most recent international consensus document on the existence of global warming and the role of humans in it. The IPCC report, which compiles the findings of over 800 scientists, states that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal” and that “human influence on the climate system is clear.”
When asked whether the state will use the report for policy recommendations, Manager of Media Relations of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Terry Clawson said in an email to the News, “We’re a state agency and don’t utilize polls. We enforce the state’s rules based on sound science, the law and common sense.”
The YPCCC is now preparing for the release of a national survey on climate change next month.