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Wild weather key factor in US attitudes to climate change debate

April 2014

More than half (60%) of Americans believe that climate change is a result of human action such as deforestation and burning of fossil fuels, according to the fifth annual Sense & Sustainability Study from Gibbs & Soell, the sustainability consulting firm.

Natural weather disasters are cited by more than half (57%) as highly influencing their opinions on climate change.

“The results speak to the importance of making big issues like climate change more personal and relatable,” commented Ron Loch, senior vp and md, at Gibbs & Soell. “Even for those people not affected by an extreme weather event, news of hurricanes, droughts and blizzards evoke fear, concern and empathy. That’s why storytelling is so important when discussing issues of sustainability and social responsibility. It makes the larger problem more relevant and helps gain the kind of attention that can lead to meaningful action.”

Water scarcity also emerges as a significant cause of heightened concern for Americans (48%). In isolating subgroups, water scarcity is among the top three issues for believers (56 %), skeptics (40 %) and the unsure (22 %). Among skeptics, a small yet substantial number (16 %) point to climate change among issues that cause more concern now as compared to five years ago.

For the third year in a row, the study finds that only about one in five US adults (21 %) believes that the majority of businesses (“most,” “almost all,” or “all”) are committed to “going green.”

This marks an increase as compared to the study’s first results, which found that a mere 16 % of Americans believed that the majority of companies are dedicated to improving the environment.

In the area of general knowledge about environmental matters, Americans’ confidence continues to slip. In 2014, 55 % say they feel well-informed about topics related to sustainability and the environment, as compared to 61 % in 2012, when the question was first asked in the study.

Access to information may hold a clue, says Gibbs & Soell. More than half (59 %) of US adults say they often encounter information about businesses “going” green in the media they typically rely on for news. This number has declined since 2012, when 65 % said they detected green business news in the media they regularly consumed.
 




Gibbs & Soell | North America | Climate change

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