Majority Of Americans Accept That Climate Change Makes Hurricanes More Severe


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

An infrared image of Hurricane Maria. NASA/NOAA

Does climate change make hurricanes worse? Yes – warmer ocean waters make them wetter, more powerful, windier and, as is increasingly the case, more likely to cause wanton destruction. There are a few variables to this, and the overall damage really depends on where the hurricane makes landfall and if it slows down or not, but in a nutshell, this link is a surefire bet.

Now it seems that, for the first time, the majority of Americans accept this viewpoint too. According to a new poll by ABC News and the Washington Post, 55 percent of the public say that the severity of recent hurricanes is down to climate change, whereas 41 percent say that it’s just severe weather that happens sometimes.


This is a huge jump from the last time this poll was conducted (then by Pew), in September 2005 – just after Hurricane Katrina hit the US. Back then, just 25 percent said that climate change was ramping up the strength of hurricanes, whereas 66 percent disagreed.

The shift is primarily down to Democratic-leaning members of the public. This year, 78 percent of them attribute the severity of the recent hurricanes to climate change, a 47 percent increase from 2005. Independents, too, have contributed to the swing: 56 percent chose the climate change option, a 27 point bump from 2005.

Republicans, however, have shown almost no change at all. Just after Katrina hit, just 16 percent said that climate change made it worse. Today, that figure is 23 percent.

Americans are more scientifically astute than ever before. ABC News/Washington Post

This is a curious finding, particularly as a recent survey hinted that Republican’s tendency to accept scientific consensus had no correlation with their political beliefs. In contrast, Democrats were more likely to accept scientific consensus as they gained more education, regardless of their political affiliation.


Overall, the most likely people to attribute the severity of the recent tropical cyclones were liberals or moderates, and those with college degrees, particularly women.

In any case, it’s another piece of evidence revealing that much of the American public – contrary to popular opinion – is actually scientifically literate, and aware of the emerging truths coming from academia. Despite the fact that 2017 is the age of Alternative Facts, scientific censorship, and looming funding cuts, there is hope after all that people are tuned in to what’s real, and what’s fake news.

It’s a shame, though, that sometimes climate change needs to be a visceral danger – one that essentially slaps you in the face – to make you realize it’s a clear and present threat.


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