Poll shows shift in attitudes on global warming

“Climategate” and reports of errors in a U.N. report on climate change may be having some effect on how the public views global warming.

According to Gallup’s annual update of American attitudes toward the environment, 48 percent of Americans now believe that the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated. That’s up from 41 percent a year ago and 31 percent in 1997, when the polling company first asked the question.

A majority of Americans still believe global warming is real, but the number is falling. According to the poll, Americans are less convinced that humans are causing climate change. In 2003, 61 percent of Americans said temperature increases were due to human activity. Now, a “significantly diminished” 50 percent say humans are to blame, and 46 percent think not.

There is some evidence in the poll that the news stories on errors in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and the controversy over emails hacked from a prominent climate research institution in the United Kingdom are weakening Americans' belief that there is a consensus about the causes of global warming. "Roughly half of Americans now say that 'most scientists believe that global warming is occurring,' down from 65 percent in recent years," according to Gallup.