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Americans ‘Alarmed’ by Climate Change Double in Just 5 Years

Twenty-nine percent of respondents to the poll conducted last December by Yale and George Mason universities.

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A woman displays a placard during a demonstration in New York on June 1, 2017, to protest U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the 195-nation Paris climate accord deal. VOA

The proportion of Americans found to be “alarmed” by climate change has doubled in just five years, the pollsters behind a nationwide survey revealed on Tuesday.

Twenty-nine percent of respondents to the poll conducted last December by Yale and George Mason universities were in the alarmed category — an all-time high — and twice the percentage of those surveyed in 2013.

More than 1,100 adults across the United States were asked about their beliefs, attitudes and behaviors toward climate change.

The answers were then used to classify respondents into six groups, from dismissive, or least worried about climate change, to alarmed, for those most worried.

US, New York
FILE – People cool off at the Unisphere in Queens, New York, July 2, 2018. VOA

Those deemed dismissive of global warming represented 9 percent of respondents, a drop of five points compared to 2013.

‘Green New Deal’

The findings come amid a growing polarization of the political debate over the issue of global warming in the United States.

The decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to pull out of the Paris climate deal has fired up his base, while opponents have championed a “Green New Deal” that seeks to eliminate the nation’s heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions within a decade.

The 2015 Paris accord, agreed by nearly 200 nations, seeks to wean the global economy off fossil fuels in the second half of this century, limiting the rise in average temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.

The increased visibility of global warming such debates generate could explain Americans’ rising concern, said Kenneth Sherrill, a political science professor emeritus at Hunter College in New York City.

New York, Climate
The climate in New York City in 60 years could feel like Arkansas now. Pixabay

“The more information you get there more interested that you are,” he said.

Academic research has further shown that growing exposure to bouts of extreme weather may also change minds, he added. “And it results in higher concern.”

Climate change influences economy

Climate change will cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century, hitting everything from health to infrastructure, according to a 2018 government report, the Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II.

ALSO READ: Global Warming Could Change US Cities’ Climate by 2080- Study

Meanwhile, three of the five costliest hurricanes in the United States — Harvey, Maria and Irma — occurred in 2017, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, part of the U.S. Commerce Department. (VOA)

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Students Worldwide Skip School to Protest Government’s Failure against Global Warming

They're angry at their elders, and they're not taking it sitting down

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global warming, climate change
Students from different institutions hold placards and banners as they participate in a climate protest in New Delhi, India, March 15, 2019. VOA

They’re angry at their elders, and they’re not taking it sitting down.

Students worldwide are skipping class Friday to take to the streets to protest their governments’ failure to take sufficient action against global warming.

The coordinated “school strikes,” being held from the South Pacific to the edge of the Arctic Circle, were inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who began holding solitary demonstrations outside the Swedish parliament last year.

Since then, the weekly protests have snowballed from a handful of cities to hundreds, driven by social media-savvy students and dramatic headlines about the impact of climate change.

climate change, global warming
Students attend a protest ralley of the “Friday For Future Movement” in Berlin, Germany, March 15, 2019. VOA

Thunberg, who was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, was cheered for her blunt message to leaders at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland this year, when she told them: “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day.”

Friday’s rallies are expected to be one of the biggest international actions yet. Protests were under way or planned in cities in more than 100 countries, including Hong Kong; New Delhi; Wellington, New Zealand; and Oulo, Finland.

In Berlin some 10,000 protesters, most of them young students, gathered in a downtown square, waving signs with slogans such as “There is no planet B” and “Climate Protection Report Card: F” before a march through the capital’s government quarter. The march was to end with a demonstration outside Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office.

Organizer Carla Reemtsma, a 20-year-old university student, said social media had been key in reaching people directly to coordinate the massive protests in so many different locations, noting that she was in 50 WhatsApp groups and fielding some 30,000 messages a day.

“It’s really important that people are getting together all over the world, because it’s affecting us all,” she said.

Critics, supporters

Some politicians have criticized the students, suggesting they should be spending their time in school, not on the streets.

“One can’t expect children and young people to see all of the global connections, what’s technically reasonable and economically possible,” said the head of Germany’s pro-business Free Democratic Party, Christian Lindner. “That’s a matter for professionals.”

climate change, global warming
Students hold signs during a rally for global climate strike for future in Seoul, South Korea, March 15, 2019. VOA

But scientists have backed the protests, with thousands signing petitions in support of the students in Britain, Finland and Germany.

“We are the professionals and we’re saying the young generation is right,” said Volker Quaschning, a professor of engineering at Berlin’s University of Applied Sciences.

“We should be incredibly grateful and appreciative of their bravery,” said Quaschning, one of more than 23,000 German-speaking scientists to sign a letter of support this week. “Because in a sense, it’s incredibly brave not to go to school for once.”

Scientists have warned for decades that current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are unsustainable, so far with little effect. In 2015, world leaders agreed in Paris to a goal of keeping the Earth’s global temperature rise by the end of the century well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Yet at present, the world is on track for an increase of 4 degrees Celsius, which experts say would have far-reaching consequences for life on the planet.

“As a doctor, I can say it makes a big difference whether you’ve got a fever of 41 degrees Celsius (105.8 Fahrenheit) or 43 C (109.4 F),” said Eckart von Hirschhausen, a German scientist who signed the call supporting striking students. “One of those is compatible with life, the other isn’t.”

Other action

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have publicly welcomed the student protests, even as their policies have been criticized as too limited by environmental activists.

In France, activist groups launched legal action this week for failing to do enough to fight climate change, citing a similar successful effort in the Netherlands.

climate change, global warming
Hundreds of schoolchildren take part in a climate protest in Hong Kong, March 15, 2019. VOA

In Germany, environmental groups and experts have attacked government plans to continue using coal and natural gas for decades to come. Activists say that countries like Germany should fully “decarbonize” by 2040, giving less-advanced nations a bit more time to wean themselves off fossil fuels while still meeting the Paris goal globally.

Other changes needed to curb greenhouse gas emissions include ramping up renewable energy production, reining in over-consumption culture now spreading beyond the industrialized West and changing diets, experts say.

“The fight against climate change is going to be uncomfortable, in parts, and we need to have a society-wide discussion about this,” said Quaschning.

ALSO READ: The Flamboyant Plastic Waste Boat Reminds The Global Policy-Makers The Urgency To Address Impact Of Plastics on The World’s Marine Environment

That conversation is likely to get louder, with several U.S. presidential hopefuls planning to campaign on climate change.

Luisa Neubauer, one of the Berlin group organizing Fridays for Future, said politicians should take note of the young.

“For the European elections in May, we’re urging everyone to think about whether they want to give their vote to a party that doesn’t have a plan for the future and the climate,” she said. (VOA)