Americans have accepted global warming is occurring, but remain divided about what's causing it.
They also overwhelmingly say action must be taken to combat it — but many aren't sure if anything done will ultimately work.
According to a new poll from Yale’s Project on Climate Change Communication, two-thirds of Americans think global warming is happening. That is up 3 percentage points from last year. And the number who don’t believe in it at all fell 7 points to 16 percent.
But the public’s understanding of what is causing global warming is at odds with science. Just 50 percent believe global warming is mostly caused by human activities, despite near unanimity on the subject among climate scientists. More than 30 percent of Americans believe the warming is being caused mostly by the earth itself.
As it turns out, only 10 percent are even aware that at least 90 percent of climate scientists believe the causes are man-made.
The 2014 U.S. National Climate Assessment, which was written and reviewed by hundreds of climate experts over the past 4 years states that “the global warming of the past 50 years is primarily due to human activities, predominantly the burning of fossil fuels. Many independent lines of evidence confirm that human activities are affecting climate in unprecedented ways.”
Andy Hoffman, Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan, says Americans, more than any other country in the West, are prone to turning climate change into a debate about political and cultural beliefs.
"We are an outlier," he said. "Once we connect to a cultural identity and it starts to become cemented, just giving people more data is not going to make them understand [climate change] any more. But in reality they're protecting their cultural identity."
It's possible that the debate over causes may not matter, however. The Yale poll shows Americans overwhelmingly believe action should be taken to slow global warming…
…Including curbing CO2 emissions on coal plants.
As for whether any of it will work, 44 percent of Americans aren't certain, a figure that appears to be increasing.
Yale surveyed 1,275 Americans aged 18 and over.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.