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Half of Americans Say They’ve Been Impacted by Climate Crisis, Poll Shows

Studies suggest that the number of Americans who have experienced the effects of the crisis is actually much higher.

A water-dropping helicopter battles a brush fire that broke out on June 17, 2022, in Jurupa Valley, California.

A new poll shows that nearly half of all Americans say that they’ve experienced the effects of the climate crisis — although scientific research suggests that the proportion of people who have felt the effects of the crisis is actually much higher.

An Economist/YouGov poll published this week asked respondents a number of climate change-related questions, including whether they have personally felt the effects of a change in the climate. Nearly half of the survey’s respondents (47 percent) said that they have, while another 25 percent said that they weren’t sure. Just 20 percent said that they haven’t felt the effects of the crisis, while 8 percent wrongly maintained that the climate crisis isn’t real.

The poll also found that at least 1 in 10 Americans (10 percent) believe that they will experience the effects of climate change in their lifetime, on top of the number who said that they’ve already experienced changes.

Most Americans (54 percent) agreed — climate change is real, and it’s man-made. Another quarter of respondents (25 percent) said that the climate crisis is happening but disagreed with the fact that human activity has been impacting the planet’s global temperatures, despite widespread scientific consensus that this is the case.

The findings come as the U.S. saw record-high temperatures across the country this past weekend, with more high temperatures yet to come. Through this current week, 7 in 10 Americans are set to experience temperatures in the 90s or higher. Twenty percent will experience even hotter weather, including temperatures exceeding 100 degrees.

The Economist/YouGov poll demonstrates that most Americans understand that the climate crisis is already impacting them, or will impact them at some point — but while polling data can measure the attitudes and opinions of those who participate, scientific data offers a truer understanding of what’s happening.

Indeed, while close to half of all Americans say that they’ve experienced the effects of climate change, that number is likely much higher. Research published in 2021 in the journal Nature Climate Change showed that 85 percent of all humans on the planet have directly felt the effects of climate change, whether through floods, droughts, forest fires, extreme heat or unusual cold spells.

The Climate Shift Index, a new online tool created by Climate Central, details areas of the continental United States where temperatures are currently higher than normal, utilizing government data on historical temperatures. On Thursday, in the coastal region of Texas, for example, it was 99.4 degrees outside — a temperature level that is 8.3 degrees higher than normal.

The Climate Shift Index is meant to “help reveal how climate change is disrupting our world,” Climate Central says on its website, adding that the tool “provides daily estimates of how climate change is impacting air temperature.”

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