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Poll: Americans Skeptical about Climate Change

People support renewable energy for a variety of reasons: Job creation, security, technology innovation, and of course, climate change. But a new poll of Americans shows a trend of increased skepticism around the issue of climate change.

The poll, conducted by the Shelton Group, surveyed 1,098 Americans who purchase “green” products. (A slippery term, yes – but it shows that these participants are at least thinking about the issues).

The results show that the number of Americans who believe that “global warming or climate change is occurring and it is primarily caused by human activity” is declining. 52% of the people who bought “green” products agreed with the statement, compared to 49% of consumers overall. The Shelton Group reports a decline of 6% from a year ago.

It's a good thing that renewables are attractive for so many other reasons.

When asked about whether so-called “nightmare scenarios” (The polar ice cap has completely melted, kids cannot play outside in the summer, or Nebraska is turning into a desert) would convince them of the reality of climate change, 27% of doubters said that none of them would have an impact on their belief.

“That means over half of those who are unconvinced about global warming are either unlikely to change their mind or unlikely to change their ways, no matter what happens,” said Suzanne Shelton, CEO of Shelton Group, in a statement.

According to the survey results, a small number of current doubters would respond if:

  • The polar ice cap had completely melted - 15%

  • Kids should no longer go outside to play during the spring and summer due to consistently dangerous ozone/pollution levels - 15%

  • Shifting weather patterns/lack of rain was turning Nebraska into a desert -- 3%

  • There were only 20 polar bears estimated to be left living in the wild -- 2%

  • Residents of American Samoa were having to be relocated due to rising tides -- 0.6%

While this survey was focused mostly on consumer products that you find in supermarkets, the implications for renewable energy are clear: While many people support across the political spectrum support the industry, it's often because of factors like jobs, security and international competition, not necessarily climate change.

“The good news is, Americans are still going green, whether they believe in global warming or not,” Shelton said.

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I am a reporter with ClimateProgress.org, a blog published by the Center for American Progress. I am former editor and producer for RenewableEnergyWorld.com, where I contributed stories and hosted the Inside Renewable Energy Podcast. Keep in to...

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