Back in May, some climate change experts did an analysis of the American population's relationship to the subject. What they found were six distinct groupings based on level of concern and involvement ranging from Alarmed to Dismissive. About 51% of our nation's citizens rated either Alarmed (18%) or Concerned (33%) and would actually take action either as a consumer or a voter or, hopefully, both.
Just this week, a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey was released showing that some two-thirds of Americans believe global warming is rooted in actual fact. That number is an eight-point drop since June 2008. The difference? Republicans. Their position waned by 11%.
CNN's polling director, Keating Holland, explained it like this: "The growing skepticism among Republicans, with no matching shift among Democrats, suggests that the changes measured in this poll may be a reaction to having a Democrat in the White House rather than a shift in underlying attitudes toward global warming." Holland also dismissed the theory that this change was due to the recent ClimateGate shenanigans, saying that surveys done over a month ago mirror his findings.
In the Six Americas model, folks who landed in the Alarmed category see climate change as a serious and urgent threat. They believe humans to be a major factor and are taking steps to change their lifestyles in accordance with a more sustainable way of living. They would like to see governments (and everyone else) step up efforts in a concerted, aggressive response. The Concerned people are slightly less Chicken Little about it, although they definitely take the matter seriously. Generally less personally involved, Concerned citizens would like to see a hearty national response and are taking small steps in their own lives to lighten their footprints.
If you parallel those groups to the CNN poll, that combined 51% would match up to the 45% (down from 54%) who believe global warming is indeed caused by human activity. Fully one-third of the population, according to CNN's results, think climate change is caused naturally without any man-made accelerants. On the bright side, 58% (down from 66%) of our fellow citizens would like the United States to work hard on cutting emissions no matter what the rest of the world does. Holland muses about the seeming disparity between the numbers, "Pollution is pollution, and the country has been worried about clean air long before global warming became a topic of discussion."
Back in the Six Americas, the next group down is merely Cautious having a simulacrum of interest in the matter. They think climate change is a problem, but aren't sure it's actually happening. The Disengaged just haven't really thought all that much about climate change, so they aren't really on one side or the other.
The Doubtful are a macédoine of opinions, split between “those who think global warming is happening, those who think it isn’t and those who do not know.” Any way the cookie (or the planet) crumbles, these folks think that if – and that's a really big if – it's real, it won't harm humans for decades. Then there are those who are actively Dismissive, working to stunt any response because they believe climate change is absolutely not real.
In both studies, we come up with only 58% of Americans who are willing to make any changes at all. Imagine, then, where the other billions of global citizens are in this schematic. And then think about where you are.