Most Americans (52%) believe that there continues to be significant disagreement within the scientific community over global warming.
While many advocates of aggressive policy responses to global warming say a consensus exists, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 25% of adults think most scientists agree on the topic. Twenty-three percent (23%) are not sure.
But just in the last few days, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs seemed to reject any such disagreement in a response to a question about global warming, “I don't think … [global warming] is quite, frankly, among most people, in dispute anymore.”
Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Americans say it’s at least somewhat likely that some scientists have falsified research data to support their own theories and beliefs about global warming. Thirty-five percent (35%) say it’s Very Likely. Just 26% say it’s not very or not at all likely that some scientists falsified data.
This skepticism does not appear to be the result of the recent disclosure of e-mails confirming such data falsification as part of the so-called “Climategate” scandal. Just 20% of Americans say they’ve followed news reports about those e-mails Very Closely, while another 29% have followed them Somewhat Closely.
That’s a lower level of interest than has been shown about the White House party crashers and suggests that Americans have had their doubts about the science of global warming for some time.
One reason for this skepticism may be the role the United Nations has played in promoting the global warming issue. Only 22% of Americans consider the UN to be a reliable source of information on global warming. Forty-nine percent (49%) disagree and say the international organization is not reliable on that topic. Twenty-nine percent (29%) aren’t sure.
Still, 46% of Americans say global warming is a major problem. However, 36% disagree, and 18% remain undecided.
President Obama and other U.S. officials are planning to attend a UN summit in Copenhagen, Denmark next week intended to further advance a proposed international treaty on global warming. Obama recently committed the United States to a 17 percent emissions cut by 2020 if Congress agrees, but critics say such a cut would seriously hurt the U.S. economy.
But then Republicans and voters not affiliated with either major party are more likely than Democrats to see disagreement in the scientific community over global warming and to suspect that data has been falsified.
Even as Obama and senior members of Congress are pushing major anti-global warming initiatives, Americans overwhelmingly believe they should focus on the economy instead. Seventy-one percent (71%) say the bigger priority for U.S. national leaders is stimulating the economy to create jobs. Only 15% say they should focus instead on stopping global warming to save the environment.
The emphasis on jobs is understandable when just 14% of workers report that their firms are hiring. Data from the Rasmussen Employment Index shows that 29% now report that their employers are laying people off.
Interestingly, Republicans feel more strongly than Democrats and unaffiliateds that national leaders should focus on job creation. But recent data shows that Democrats and unaffiliated adults are more likely than Republicans to be unemployed right now.
Forty-four percent (44%) of U.S. voters see a conflict between economic growth and environmental protection, although 31% disagree. Forty-seven percent (47%) say global warming is caused primarily by long-term planetary trends, not human activity. Obama, Vice President Al Gore and other climate change activists believe human activity is the chief culprit.
Twenty-nine percent (29%) of adults think their fellow Americans are selfish for putting economic concerns ahead of the fight against global warming, but 47% reject that charge.
Voters express mixed feeling about the bill aimed at fighting global warming that is now working its way through Congress, but by more than two-to-one they say it will hurt the economy rather than help it.
Most voters also think the news media makes global warming look worse than it really is.
As for Gore, despite winning both the Nobel Peace Prize and an Academy Award for his advocacy of efforts to fight global warming, only 31% of Americans consider him an expert on the topic.
The UN is another leading advocate for major anti-global warming initiatives, but just 29% of voters see that organization as an ally of the United States, while 15% regard it as an enemy. For 47%, the UN falls somewhere in between.