Category: Climate Change

Resource Category Topic Type
Carsey Perspectives: To Dig, Or Not To Dig?
Editor’s Note: Tom Haines, a journalist and assistant professor of English at The University of New Hampshire, has walked hundreds of miles across landscapes of fuel while researching a book about energy and the environment that will be published in 2018. He served as a Carsey School Summer Research Scholar in 2015, when he walked 50 miles among the open-pit coal mines of Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. That on-the-ground reporting informs this analysis. In January 2016, the Department of Interior announced a moratorium on all new federal coal leases while it conducts an in-depth review of the process by which coal owned by the American public is sold to private enterprise for harvest. Nearly 40 percent of all coal produced in the United States comes from federal land, and coal still powers one-third of the nation’s electricity grid.1 The federal coal lease review, the first since the 1980s, considers pricing and competitive bidding practices, but also, for the first time, the environmental impact that burning coal has on a warming planet. In announcing the review, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said: “We need to take into account right now the science of carbon’s impact on the environment.” Ten percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions comes from burning coal harvested on public land. Nearly all of that, more than 85 percent, is dug from the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana.2 Nowhere else does the U.S. government control such a vast deposit of fossil fuel. So as the lease review—and the climate impacts it considers—plays out over the next few years, the Powder River Basin, home to some of the world’s largest open-pit coal mines, looms as a policy frontier: Should this fuel box of America, which has sent coal to power plants in dozens of states for decades, continue to feed our energy appetite?
Community, Environment, and Climate Change Climate Change, Energy, Environment, Politics and Elections Publication
Climate Change, Sea-Level Rise, and the Vulnerable Cultural Heritage of Coastal New Hampshire
New Hampshire’s ocean coastline, though small relative to that of other states, is a place where people have lived, worked, and died for thousands of years. It is home to numerous important cultural heritage sites,1 and its identity is tied in tangible and intangible ways to centuries of marine-based ways of life.2 Tourism to the region’s remnant historic heritage sites and cultural landscapes is a key factor in coastal New Hampshire’s strong demographic, social, and economic growth. Rockingham and Strafford, the state’s two coastal counties, accounted for $104.7 million, or well over a third (37.5 percent), of the state’s meal and room tax revenue in fiscal year 2014.3
Community, Environment, and Climate Change Climate Change, Conservation, Environment, New Hampshire, Rivers/Watersheds Publication
Climate Change: Partisanship, Understanding, and Public Opinion
In 2010, Carsey Institute researchers began including three new questions about climate change on a series of regional surveys. They asked how much people understand about the issue of global warming or climate change; whether they think that most scientists agree that climate change is happening now as a result of human activities; and what they believe personally about the topic. Survey results show that while large majorities agree that climate change is happening now, they split on whether this is attributed mainly to human or natural causes. Brief author Lawrence Hamilton concludes that most people gather information about climate change not directly from scientists but indirectly—through news media, political activists, acquaintances, and other non-science sources. Their understanding reflects not simply scientific knowledge, but rather the adoption of views promoted by political or opinion leaders they follow. While public beliefs about physical reality remain strikingly politicized, leading science organizations agree that human activities are now changing the Earth’s climate. Interestingly, the strong scientific agreement on this point contrasts with the partisan disagreement seen on all of the Carsey surveys.
Community, Environment, and Climate Change Civic Attitudes, Climate Change, Politics and Elections, Public Opinion Publication
Conservative and Liberal Views of Science
Conservative distrust of scientists regarding climate change and evolution has been widely expressed in public pronouncements and surveys, contributing to impressions that conservatives are less likely to trust scientists in general. But what about other topics, where some liberals have expressed misgivings too? Nuclear power safety, vaccinations, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are three often-mentioned examples. For this report, five similarly worded survey questions were designed to test the hypothesis that, depending on the issue, liberals are just as likely to reject science as conservatives. The five questions were included along with many unrelated items in telephone surveys of over 1,000 New Hampshire residents. As expected, liberals were most likely and conservatives least likely to say that they trust scientists for information about climate change or evolution. Contrary to the topic-bias hypothesis, however, liberals also were most likely and conservatives least likely to trust scientists for information about vaccines, nuclear power safety, and GMOs. Liberal–conservative gaps on these questions ranged from 55 points (climate change) to 24 points (nuclear power), but always in the same direction. These results pose a challenge for some common explanations of political polarization in views about science.
Community, Environment, and Climate Change Climate Change, New Hampshire, Politics and Elections, Public Opinion, Trust Publication
Data Snapshot: Millennials and Climate Change
From more frequent flooding to heat waves and drought, adverse impacts from climate change are already being experienced. Scientists warn of worse impacts within the lifetime of many people alive today, if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced. Although majorities in all age groups recognize the reality of climate change, awareness is highest among young adults.
Community, Environment, and Climate Change Climate Change, Environment, Trust, Young Adults Publication
Data Snapshot: Public Acceptance of Human-Caused Climate Change Is Gradually Rising
Have recent extreme weather events in the United States shifted public opinion on climate change? In late summer and fall 2017, disaster headlines were common. Hurricanes caused damage along the Gulf Coast, and brought devastation to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The West experienced severe wildfires, with 2 million acres aflame at one point. Although attributing particular events to climate change is difficult, scientists have noted that such extremes are becoming increasingly frequent as climate warms.1
Community, Environment, and Climate Change Climate Change, Environment, Public Opinion Publication
Do Scientists Agree about Climate Change? Public Perceptions from a New Hampshire Survey
This report, a collaboration of the Carsey Institute, the UNH Survey Center, and the UNH Office of Sustainability, is the first of a new initiative that will track public perceptions about climate change as they change over time. Questions related to climate change were asked as part of New Hampshire's Granite State Poll, which surveyed 512 New Hampshire residents in April 2010.
Community, Environment, and Climate Change Climate Change, New Hampshire, Politics and Elections, Public Opinion Publication
Do You Believe the Climate Is Changing? Answers From New Survey Research
This brief explores how political views influence Americans’ understanding and perception of science. The research is based on a national version of the Community and Environment in Rural America survey called NCERA, and on New Hampshire’s statewide Granite State Poll.
Community, Environment, and Climate Change Climate Change, Environment, Politics and Elections, Public Opinion Publication
Do You Trust Scientists About the Environment?
In this brief, author Lawrence Hamilton examines the results of a Granite State Poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center in late January–early February 2014. The poll asked about public trust in scientists, along with other questions on science, political, and social issues that help to place the science-trust results in perspective.
Community, Environment, and Climate Change, New Hampshire Climate Change, Environment, New Hampshire, Politics and Elections, Public Opinion, Trust Publication
Drier Conditions, More Wildfire, and Heightened Concerns About Forest Management in Eastern Oregon
In eastern Oregon, a semi-arid region dominated by dry forest, warming over the past few decades is affecting the productivity and health of forests that are central to the region’s landscapes, economy, and culture. A warmer and drier climate will likely bring more frequent and severe wildfires and increase stress on water availability. The impacts will be significant both for natural resources and human welfare, especially in the Blue Mountains and adjacent communities. Public opinion surveys in this region show that recognition of human-caused climate change is low, but there is a high level of agreement that forest conditions are worsening and that wildfires pose a major risk. Support is high for active forest management (forest thinning, surface fuel reduction) and restoration to reduce the likelihood of dangerous, high-severity wildfires.
Community, Environment, and Climate Change Climate Change, Environment, Forests Publication
Eyes Off the Earth?
Survey researchers have observed significant political divisions in the United States with regard to public trust of science related to evolution, the environment, vaccines, genetically modified organisms, and other topics. Conservatives are less likely than moderates or liberals to say they trust scientists for information on any of these topics.1 Some of the widest divisions involve climate change, an area where the Trump administration and conservatives in Congress have proposed steep reductions in research. For example, the president’s detailed budget proposal in May 2017 calls for cuts to the Earth science and education programs of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), including termination of five Earth-viewing missions such as the DSCOVR satellite instruments which produced the image in Figure 1.2 Congressional efforts have also often targeted NASA Earth science.
Community, Environment, and Climate Change Climate Change, Environment, Politics and Elections, Trust Publication
Is New Hampshire's Climate Warming?
This Carsey brief looks at temperature anomalies across New Hampshire and shows that not only is the state warmer than it has been in the past, but it is also warming faster than much of the planet. Sociologist Lawrence Hamilton, research associate professor Cameron Wake, and former NH state climatologist Barry Keim analyzed over 100 years of temperatures across the state to produce this data for the Carsey Institute in August 2010.
Community, Environment, and Climate Change, New Hampshire Climate Change, New Hampshire, Public Opinion Publication
On Renewable Energy and Climate, Trump Voters Stand Apart
Globally, 2016 was the warmest year on record, surpassing records set in 2015 and 2014,1 and each new record emphasizes the longer-term upward trend. Though not every place on Earth experienced warming effects last year, they were quite evident in many areas. Rising South Pacific sea temperatures caused the largest die-off ever recorded of the coral that composes Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice reached record lows for several months of the year. Among scientists looking at such data, there is overwhelming agreement that human activities are shifting Earth’s climate in hazardous directions, and urgent actions are needed to slow this down.2 Among U.S. politicians and the public, however, there remain wide divisions on whether human-caused climate change is real, whether scientists agree, and whether anything should be done.3 Though climate change received little media attention during the 2016 presidential campaign, recent surveys indicate that climate change and related energy issues are taken seriously by a growing majority of the public. An example is shown in Figure 1, which charts responses to climate-change and renewable-energy questions from a post-election Polar, Environment, and Science (POLES) survey carried out by Carsey School researchers in November–December 2016. The sample comprised 707 adults from all 50 states.4
Community, Environment, and Climate Change Climate Change, Energy, Politics and Elections, Public Opinion Publication
Was December Warm?
In 2015 New Hampshire experienced its warmest December on record. The temperature exceeded twentieth century average temperatures by a wider margin than for any month in historical records dating back to 1895. In February 2016, as part of an ongoing study of environmental perceptions, the Granite State Poll asked whether residents thought that New Hampshire’s recent December had been generally colder, warmer, or about average. Only 63 percent recalled or guessed that this exceptional month had been warmer than average. Some said they did not know; others thought that December had been about average. Sixteen percent thought it had been colder than average. January, February, and March temperatures were less extreme, but each ranked among the top fifteen warmest for that month, making the 2015–2016 cold season (December through March) overall the warmest on record. In April 2016, another Granite State Poll asked whether people thought that the winter just ending had been colder, warmer, or about average. Ground bare of snow through much of the season and the early arrival of spring (both in stark contrast to the snowy winter of 2014–2015) had been widely noticed,1 and 73 percent recognized a warm winter. But who recalled the unusual season and who did not? The two surveys found no significant differences in the accuracy of responses by men and women or by age groups. Nor did temperatures on the day of interview seem to matter. Married respondents, however, and people with children at home tended to be more aware of recent warmth. Awareness also was higher among those who agree with the scientific consensus on climate change. Connections between climate-change beliefs and perceptions about weather have been observed in other studies, although not with regard to such extreme and recent local events.
Community, Environment, and Climate Change, New Hampshire Climate Change, New Hampshire, Politics and Elections, Public Opinion, Trust Publication
Where Is the North Pole?
The north and south polar regions have been rapidly changing, affecting global weather and sea levels and sparking international concern about shipping and resources. While these global impacts occur, physical changes such as warming and less ice directly affect ecosystems and people living in polar regions. President Obama, visiting the northern Alaska town of Kotzebue in summer 2015, noted the impact of climate change on the American Arctic, where several towns may be abandoned due to rising flood risks in the next few decades, if not sooner. To explore public knowledge and perceptions about climate change, University of New Hampshire researchers conducted the first Polar, Environment, and Science (POLES) survey in August 2016. A random sample of U.S. adults were asked for their views regarding science, climate change, sources of information, current problems, and possible solutions. In addition, the survey tested basic geographical knowledge related to polar regions, such as whether the United States has a significant population living in the Arctic, and what respondents know about the location of the North Pole. Results from the survey highlight areas of knowledge, uncertainty, and division. Public views on almost everything related to climate change—acceptance of basic science observations, trusted sources of information, the seriousness of current problems, or the need for any policy response—exhibit wide differences depending on political orientation. In this election year, such divisions appear as stark contrasts between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Geographic questions that are not obviously tied to climate beliefs evoke less political division, but often reveal low levels of background knowledge.
Community, Environment, and Climate Change Climate Change, Environment, Politics and Elections, Public Opinion, Trust Publication