US citizens see weather disasters worsening, according to new poll

In line with scientists’ findings, about three-quarters of United States citizens consider that weather disasters are now worsening, most of them blaming global warming to some extent, according to a new survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

US President Donald Trump looks at the trajectory of the recent Dorian hurricane. Credit: Wikipedia Commons

The study, carried out in mid-August before the Dorian hurricane, showed 72 percent of Americans think catastrophic weather is more severe, while 4 percent see it as less nasty. About one-quarter say those disasters are about as extreme as they always were.

At the same time, half of those who think weather disasters are worsening said it’s mainly because of man-made climate change, with another 37 percent who think natural randomness and global warming are equally to blame.

Most of the adults across demographic groups think weather disasters are getting more severe, according to the poll. College-educated US citizens are slightly more likely than those without a degree to say so, 79 percent versus 69 percent.

There were wide differences in assessments by partisanship. Nine in 10 Democrats think weather disasters are more extreme, compared with about half of Republicans. Also, those surveyed are slightly more likely to say disasters are more severe when compared with a similarly worded question asked after hurricanes in 2013 and 2017.

The unveiling of the results comes only a week after the Dorian hurricane arrived in the Caribbean and the US. Dorian wiped out neighborhoods in the northern Bahamas, leaving at least 43 people dead. It then closed in on the southeastern coast of the United States, where five deaths have been blamed on the storm so far.

According to data from the National Hurricane Center (NHC), about 36 hurricanes have hit the U.S. from 1995 to 2017, 13 of which have been considered major hurricanes, or a Category 3 or above, at the time when they made landfall.

One of the most visible consequences of a warming world is an increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events. The US National Climate Assessment found that the number of heatwaves, heavy downpours, and major hurricanes has increased and the strength of these events has increased, too.

At the same time, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said intensifying climate change will make extreme weather events more likely. They stated that it is “virtually certain” (99-100% probability) that more regions in the world would experience increases in warmer days and a decrease in colder days.

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