In Research

Severe Weather Drives Climate Concerns

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ecoAmerica’s latest survey finds that severe weather events are making Americans more concerned about climate change. Already in summer 2021, the Pacific Northwest has experienced extreme heat reaching record temperatures, while floods have drenched areas across the country as diverse as Detroit, Northern Colorado, and New York City. 

A majority of Americans understand that climate change is making extreme weather events stronger and more frequent, and most notice the impacts closest to home. However, there are significant gaps between political and age groups. Democrats and Americans over 60 years of age report noticing more severe weather when compared to fewer Republicans and Americans between 18-29.

 

Climate Concern Surges 

ecoAmerica’s research finds that 78% of Americans are more concerned about climate change as a result of severe weather, while only 22% are not. This concern comes with a higher intensity as 44% of Americans say severe weather has made them a lot more concerned, and 34% say severe weather has made them somewhat more concerned.

 

Majorities Link Climate Change to Severe Weather

Over three-quarters (76%) of Americans say that climate change is strengthening or increasing the frequency of extreme weather events like wildfires, floods, extreme heat/heat waves, hurricanes, and tornadoes. 42% of Americans say they think climate change is strengthening or increasing the frequency of these events “a lot” more, and over one-third (34%) say “somewhat more.” The vast majority of Democrats (88%) are making the connection between climate change and severe weather, as are 76% of Independents. While fewer, over half (58%) of Republicans say climate change is responsible, too, with 1 in 5 Republicans believing climate change impacts these events “a lot more” and nearly double that (38%) “somewhat more.” 

 

Americans Notice Most the Climate Impacts Closest to Home

ecoAmerica’s study finds that Americans in all areas of the country are noticing increases in climate impacts, however they notice most the specific weather events that impact their local community. Extreme heat is the number one severe weather event noticed by Americans — 79% say they’ve noticed more extreme heat waves in the past few years. Americans in the West and Northeast, places that have experienced dangerous summer temperatures, indicate even higher levels of awareness, at 83% and 82% respectively. As dozens of wildfires spread across the region, Americans in the West also report noticing more severe wildfires (82%). Americans in the Northeast top other regions in noticing more severe floods (68%). More severe hurricanes are getting noticed most by those in the South (65%). Just over half of Americans report noticing more severe tornadoes.

 

Democrats and Older Americans Notice More Severe Weather

Beyond regional variations, ecoAmerica’s research finds that larger percentages of Democrats report noticing more severe weather in the past few years than Independents or Republicans. Notable gaps include a 26 point difference between Democrats and Republicans in noticing more tornadoes, a 24 point difference in noticing more floods, and a 20 point difference in noticing more extreme heat.

Differences in age groups unfold primarily between Americans over 60 and Americans between 18-29. While younger Americans have propelled climate action, Americans over 60 years in age report noticing increased severe weather more than all other age groups. Awareness increases fairly proportionately with age across all severe weather categories, with the largest difference being 21 points between Americans over 60 noticing more tornadoes compared to those 18-29.

 

Full data is available in the accompanying toplines.

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Methodology

ecoAmerica designed and administered this survey, which was conducted online on July 7-8, 2021 using Survey Monkey. The survey yielded a total of 1,109 complete adult responses. The sample was drawn from an online panel and the respondents were screened to ensure that they were over the age of 18. The margin of error for the sample is +/-3%. In interpreting the survey results, it is important to note that all sample surveys are subject to possible sampling error. Thus, the results of a survey may differ from the results that would be obtained if the entire population was interviewed. The size of the sampling error depends upon both the total number of respondents in the survey and the percentage distribution of the responses to a particular question. For example, if 50% of the respondents in a sample of 1,109 respondents answered, “Yes” to a particular question, we can be 95% confident that the true percentage would fall within 3 points, or range from 47% to 53%.

Suggested Citation

Speiser, M., Hill, A. (August 2021). American Climate Perspectives Survey 2021. Severe Weather Drives Climate Concerns. ecoAmerica. Washington, DC.

© 2021 ecoAmerica.  The contents of this report may be shared and used under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

For more information contact us at research@ecoAmerica.org

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