First on CNN: Americans are far more likely to say climate crisis is a threat after facing recent extreme weather
“I’ve seen it come up and go down, come up and go down,” Runnels recounted. “Never to this level.”
A new Gallup poll shared first with CNN found 1 in 3 Americans said they have been affected by some kind of extreme weather in the past two years, and those who had been were far more likely to say the climate crisis is a threat. Gallup estimates that around 6 million people were affected by drought in that time.
“People see this happening more and more across the country, and I think they’re making that connection,” Jeffrey Jones, senior editor with Gallup, told CNN. “It’s certainly influencing how they view the [climate] issue.”
While Democrats were more likely to report being impacted by extreme weather — 45% to 20% — the poll found, regardless of political party affiliation, respondents who had been affected were more likely to be concerned about the climate crisis.
Republicans and Republican-leaners are less likely to be concerned, Gallup reported, but there was a 15-point percentage gap in climate concern between those who had (28%) and had not (13%) been affected by an extreme event.
“Extreme weather events are, in fact, more common now than they used to be,” Jones said. “They’re certainly getting a lot more attention in the news, and within that discussion, they’re saying this is evidence of climate change.”
The survey, which was conducted in early March, confirmed how people do have a hard time fully understanding the gravity of the crisis until it reaches their doorstep, Jones asserted.
People in the South and West were significantly more likely to report they had faced an extreme event than those living in the East or Midwest, Gallup found. And of those who said they had such experiences, a majority listed extreme cold, hurricane, winter storm or extreme heat as the event affecting them.
Among respondents in the West, wildfires, extreme heat and drought were the events most commonly reported.
“These data indicate that many people are starting to realize that our climate isn’t just warming, it’s becoming more variable, which is really bad news for agriculture, water supplies, industry, and so many other critical aspects of life,” Jennifer Marlon, a climate scientist at the Yale School of the Environment, who was not involved with the poll, told CNN.
Marlon contended it is good news most people are finally connecting the dots between extreme weather and global warming.
“The next question is, do people understand that burning coal, oil, and methane gas is what is causing the chaotic severe weather?” Marlon posed.
Around 65% of Gallup’s respondents believe humans are to blame for Earth’s warming over the past century, rather than natural changes. But while 45% believe global warming poses a threat to their way of life during their lifetime, there are 54% who don’t.
At Lake Powell, Runnels is hoping to see the water level rise as snow melts and drains down from high elevations.
“You’re going to get some runoff from the snow in Colorado and Utah, even though it’s not optimal, not where it should be,” Runnels said. “We figure we’ll probably get 10 feet. And if we’re lucky, we’ll get 20.”
Runnels’ marina is in a “deep channel,” but he says others aren’t as lucky.
“This marina, we can probably sustain that for a while now,” Runnels said. “Some other places that are not in the main channel where it’s 300 feet deep? Yeah, you know, they’re going to have issues.
“If it continues to go down, they’re going to be the first ones more or less dried up.”