The new government report on climate change, which the Trump administration released quietly a day after Thanksgiving and two days after President Donald Trump tweeted skeptically about the existence of climate change, warns that the drastic human effects on the climate could cause thousands of Americans to die and cost the US economy hundreds of billions of dollars.
But even before the report was made public, Americans were extremely worried about climate change.
Almost two-thirds (64%) of voters said the US needs to be doing more to address climate change, according to a poll by Quinnipiac University in August, up from 57% who said the same in December 2015.
This opinion is divided by party lines: 91% of Democrats said more should be done, and 67% of independents agreed. Fewer Republicans (one third) said more should be done about climate change, and another third of Republicans thought that the US is doing enough to address climate change. In the December 2015 Quinnipiac poll, 83% of Democrats thought the US should be doing more, compared to 62% of independents and 26% of Republicans.
The Trump administration chose to speed up release of the new report, which is required by law, putting it out on Black Friday instead of in December. It also came two days after Trump issued another tweet transmitting his skepticism of the existence of Climate change.
“Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS - Whatever happened to Global Warming?” he said Wednesday on Twitter.
An earlier portion of the climate change report was released in November 2017 and found “no convincing alternative explanation” for the changing climate other than “human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases.”
A CBS news poll from April of this year found a majority of Americans (54%) thought climate change was caused by mostly human activity (such as burning fossil fuels) rather than the quarter who said it’s caused by mostly natural patterns. The number who said it’s impacted more by human activity is up from only 46% who said so in February 2014.
Trump has stood by his years-old claim that climate change is a hoax and emphasized that belief with his statements about the California wildfires, which he said were a result of poor forest management, drawing criticism from firefighters, climate scientists and many others.
The government report, which is called the National Climate Assessment, addressed wildfires, reporting that one impact of climate change will be longer and more destructive wildfires, that could burn up to six times more forest annually by 2050 in parts of the US.
California’s wildfires are the worst in the state’s history. Over half (53%) of voters in the August Quinnipiac poll said climate change is a factor in making fires more extreme. At that point, the fires in California were only beginning, and some are still burning in November, so it’s unclear whether that number has changed since August. Eight-in-10 Democrats, 54% of independents, and 22% of Republicans thought in August that climate change has an impact the fires.
Another impact of climate change will be on the health of Americans, whether because of extreme heat and higher temperatures, diseases (like Zika) that come from mosquitoes and ticks, more food and waterborne diseases, or higher risk of asthma and allergies.
Concern about climate change and global warming has gone up in the last few years – from 33% who said they worry a great deal about it in March 2013 to 43% who say the same now, according to Gallup.
Around the same number (45%) said they think global warming will pose a serious threat to them or their way of life in their lifetimes in the March poll. That’s up from 2010, when Gallup first asked it and only a third of Americans thought global warming would impact them. Democrats are much more likely to think they’ll be impacted (67%) than independents (45%) or Republicans (18%), but whether that’s because more Democrats live in coastal regions or due to just plain partisanship, it’s hard to tell.
In a statement by White House deputy press secretary Lindsey Walters, the Trump administration downplayed the report, saying it “is largely based on the most extreme scenario, which contradicts long-established trends by assuming that despite strong economic growth that would increase greenhouse gas emissions, there would be limited technology and innovation, and a rapidly expanding population.”