2017 extreme weather raising America’s concern about climate change

It appears Americans are beginning to connect the dots between extreme weather and climate change.

Extreme weather events in 2017 raised the level of concern about climate change according to a new study in Nature Scientific Reports. 64 percent of Americans now (correctly) believe that climate change is directly affecting weather patterns.

Dana Nuccitelli elaborates on America's climate change perception trends in the Guardian. I've pulled some selected clips.


Americans are nevertheless growing increasingly concerned about climate change. A record 22% are very worried about it (double the number in the March 2015 survey), and 63% of Americans are at least somewhat worried about climate change. That’s probably because they perceive direct climate impacts – 64% of survey participants think that global warming is affecting the weather, and 33% said it’s having a big influence.

Global warming is intensifying extreme weather

Americans also connecting the dots to specific extreme weather events. About 54% said that climate change worsened the extreme heat waves, wildfires, and hurricanes that pummeled the country in 2017.

Yale climate opinion November 2017
Yale and George Mason Universities.

2017: Extreme weather year

The overwhelming number of extreme weather events in 2017 is one reason Americans are paying attention to climate change. It's a sad fact that we're hardwired to sometimes react to only what we can see. That's a bad recipe for more climate change-enhanced extreme weather disasters going forward.

2017 is near the top for billion-dollar weather disasters. Details from NOAA.

2017-billion-dollar-disaster-map (1)

In 2017 (as of October 6), there have been 15 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. These events included 1 drought event, 2 flooding events, 1 freeze event, 7 severe storm events, 3 tropical cyclone events, and 1 wildfire event. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 282 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted. The 1980–2016 annual average is 5.5 events (CPI-adjusted); the annual average for the most recent 5 years (2012–2016) is 10.6 events (CPI-adjusted).

For the first 9 months (Jan-Sept) of 2017, the U.S. has experienced 15 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters. 2017 ties the record year of 2011 for the most (15) billion-dollar disasters for the year to date. The record number of billion-dollar disasters for an entire calendar year is 16 events set in 2011. The 2017 events include two floods, a freeze, seven severe storms, three tropical cyclones, a drought and wildfire - collectively causing 282 fatalities.

Human link increasingly clear

Nuccitelli's Guardian piece highlights the latest science that clearly links human activities to the observed planetary warming.

In fact, a new study published in Nature Scientific Reports developed a real-time global warming index. It shows that humans are responsible for 1°C global surface warming over the past 150 years – approximately 100% of the warming we’ve observed. Lead author Karsten Haustein explained their new index and study in a blog post.

Human warming link

There is virtual certainty among climate scientists that human activity is the driving cause of global warming and increased intensity of extreme weather events. Americans are starting to see those links show up in extreme weather events like those we've seen in 2017.



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