Thanks, Rick Perry?

More Americans believe that the world is warming, and that human actions have contributed to the cause. As reported by Reuters, who conducted the poll,

The percentage of Americans who believe the Earth has been warming rose to 83 percent from 75 percent last year. … Some 72 percent of Republicans believe global warming is happening and 92 percent of Democrats do.

And a sizable majority believe that humans have contributed to the warming:

Some 71 percent of the Americans who believe warming is happening think that it is caused either partly or mostly by humans, while 27 percent believe it is the result of natural causes, the poll found.

These results are surprising in the midst of prominent attacks on the science  behind global warming coming from pundits and politicians. Rick Perry, for instance, has used his high-profile position as a contender for the Republican Presidential nomination to call global warming a hoax.

But pollsters contend that it is exactly this prominent skepticism that is leading more people to believe in the scientific consensus.

As Americans watch Republicans debate the issue, they are forced to mull over what they think about global warming, said Jon Krosnick, a political science professor at Stanford University. …

“That is exactly the kind of situation that will provoke the public to think about the issue in a way that they haven’t before,” Krosnick said about news reports on the Republicans denying climate change science.

As Joe Romm points out,

The polling shows that the biggest movement toward understanding the Earth has been warming occurred among independents, a 9.5% rise in those who believe the Earth has been warming.

Another contributor to the shift in public opinion? The fact that America’s weather has been warmer (and weirder) than ever. Texas had its hottest summer of any state in recorded history, including an unfathomable 40 straight days of temperatures over 100°F. The U.S. experienced ten natural disasters this year with economic losses of $1 billion or more, according to the National Weather Service. Some can be connected with climate change (such as increased hurricanes and tornados) and some are unrelated (such as earthquakes). But nonetheless, the pollsters suggest all of the events have people thinking about our earth’s climate and increasingly erratic behavior.

So as Rick Perry and others continue to doubt the obvious facts about our climate, the flaws in their arguments are being revealed. And according to a nationwide study published in June 2011, it’s hurting their political chances as well:

Political candidates get more votes by taking a “green” position on climate change – acknowledging that global warming is occurring, recognizing that human activities are at least partially to blame and advocating the need for action. … The results suggest that [by acknowledging global warming] candidates of either party can gain the votes of Democrats and Independents without losing Republican votes.

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