Environment & Climate

Climate 101

Global warming isn’t our best subject, a survey finds.

Would banning aerosol spray cans reduce global warming?

Nearly 70 percent of Americans say yes — but that’s an incorrect answer. A study co-authored by UW geography fellow Jennifer Marlon with researchers at the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication found that half of us would earn an F on a test about climate change. Just 8 percent of us have enough knowledge to earn an A or B.

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The nationally representative survey asked U.S. adults ages eighteen and older questions about how the climate system works, as well as the causes, impacts, and potential solutions related to global warming. You can give Americans credit for self-awareness, though: only one person in ten says that he or she is “very well informed” about climate change.

The survey’s authors say we have absorbed “unorganized and sometimes contradictory fragments of information” from media and other sources.

Other survey results include:

63 percent believe that global warming is happening

57 percent know that the greenhouse effect refers to gases in the atmosphere that trap heat

49 percent incorrectly believe that the space program contributes to global warming

47 percent incorrectly say that fossil fuels are the fossilized remains of dinosaurs

42 percent incorrectly believe that since scientists can’t predict the weather more than a few days in advance, they can’t possibly predict the climate of the future

Published in the Spring 2011 issue


  • Peter Staats March 30, 2011

    Apparently global warming is also not the best subject of the OnWisconsin staff or of the staff of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. Not surprising given that both groups are made up of students and faculty in the liberal arts/communication fields, not in the sciences. Jennifer Marlon claims credentials in global climate change, but they appear to be based upon blind trust in the discredited IPCC data and methods, not on research that she has done. The Yale questions reflect a strong bias toward the anthropogenic global warming thesis and their “correct answers” are simply parroted from the IPCC fictions.

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