A new public opinion survey finds nearly two thirds of Americans say the weather has gotten worse in recent years. The survey by Yale and George Mason Universities, “Extreme Weather and Climate Change in the American Mind April 2013” also found that nearly six in ten understand that global warming is affecting our weather. Last month, Gallup’s polling confirmed that the public’s understanding and concern about global warming is on the rise. In February, a poll released by the Brookings Institution showed a 7 percent increase in the number of Americans who say that the planet is warming — with that increase influenced by extreme weather events. This isn’t really so surprising given that the last two years have brought a stunning series of extreme weather events: two record heat waves, an historic drought, above-average destructive wildfires, and two powerful hurricanes that slammed into the East Coast. In 2012, the U.S. experienced the most extreme year for weather ever recorded, according to NOAA’s Climate Extremes Index. The world’s largest reinsurance firm, Munich Re, released a report in October concluding that the growing number of weather extremes are a “strong indication of climate change”: “Climate-driven changes are already evident over the last few decades for severe thunderstorms, for heavy precipitation and flash flooding, for hurricane activity, and for heatwave, drought and wild-fire dynamics in parts of North America.” “In all likelihood, we have to regard this finding as an initial climate-change footprint in our US loss data from the last four decades. Previously, there had not been such a strong chain of evidence. If the first effects of climate change are already perceptible, all alerts and measures against it have become even more pressing,” said Peter Höppe, the head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research unit. At the same time, non-climatic events (earthquakes, volcanos, tsunamis) have hardly changed, as the figure shows. So our weather is getting more extreme, thanks in large part to climate change and, NOAA’s latest research confirms, to warming-driven Arctic ice loss as well. And the public has noticed. Now we just need our political leadership to notice.
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