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Posted on Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 8:31 a.m.

Face of Climate Change: Do you believe in climate change?

By Wayne Baker

Editor's note: This post is part of a series by Dr. Baker on Our Values about core American values. This week Dr. Baker is discussing the environment.

EARTH DAY has been a major theme all this week — here at OurValues and in lots of communities around the world. The Face of Climate Change is this year’s theme, chosen by the Earth Day Network to personalize environmental threats and heroes. Today, I conclude the week with the overarching question: Do you believe climate change is real?

On Monday, I showed one face of climate change — an image I picked from thousands on the Earth Day Network web site. It was a photo of a small boy in Bilaspur, India, whose community is threatened by pollution from a sponge iron plant. On Tuesday, I offered Dr. Seuss’ fictional character the Lorax as another face of climate change. My son had watched the DVD in school on Earth Day.

Then I suggested two inanimate objects — a green recycling bin and a napkin dispenser—for two more faces of climate change. The design of each of these can change human behavior, increase recycling, and reduce paper waste.

Today, let’s conclude with a core question in this whole effort: Do you believe climate change is real?

The number of Americans who say it is has been rising recently, though the figure is still below the record numbers in 2006 and 2007 when 90 percent of Americans agreed that climate change was happening, according to an Environmental and Energy Study Institute (ESSI) Fact Sheet. Just over a third (38 percent) says that climate change is a very serious threat, with another 46 percent saying that it is a somewhat serious threat.

There’s less agreement about the role of human activity as cause of climate change. In 2007, a Gallup poll showed that six of 10 Americans say that human activity is at fault, but since then the figure has wavered around 50 percent or less.

The majority of Americans support regulating power-plant emissions and greater use of clean and renewable energy sources, ESSI reports. But there isn’t much support for a carbon tax.

Do you believe in climate change?

Is it caused by human activities?

How far are you willing to go to halt climate change?

Wayne Baker is a sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Baker blogs daily at Our Values and can be reached at or on Facebook.


James Lupton

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 1:37 a.m.

The author of the article makes several technical mistakes in posing the questions. Nevertheless, dramatic ongoing climate change is quite real, serious and caused by human activity.


Sun, Apr 28, 2013 : 11:04 p.m.

The article, and much of the discussion, is heavily colored by doubt sown by the energy industry and embraced by some right-wing politicians. Demistify is right that this is a scientific question, not one of popular belief. And the answer is already in: Climate change is 100% real, is an important problem that threatens humans and other life in many ways, and is caused by human activity (mostly the burning of carbon). Please follow this with a string of articles about what to do about climate change.


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 2:33 p.m.

"How far are you willing to go to halt climate change?" The question is absurd. No one has the capacity to control nature to the extent that the climate is frozen. "Willing" has nothing to do with it. It is technologically impossible, and that will not change soon, if ever.

James Lupton

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

By halting climate change the author clearly means anthropogenic climate change. And the answer is quite clear if you understand the science. We have to curtail CO2 emissions and this needs to begin as soon as possible.


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 2:32 p.m.

Of course. The evidence is so clear at this point that it is willfully ignorant to deny it. How to handle the problem is the bigger question (and really where the only legitimate debate should be taking place). Conservation seems like a fruitless exercise. Or, at least, conservation is not nearly enough to make the difference needed. We really need to invest in as much technology as we can to mitigate this problem. Electric car technology is essential, in my opinion, for the sole fact that they can be powered by the grid, so any advancements made in grid power is naturally transferred to vehicles. For those of you who are unsure whether anthropogenic climate change is significant, you can read a good (and open!) summary of recent findings here: It's important to note also that temperature records are just one in a long line of pieces of corroborating evidence. And as always, peer-reviewed scientific papers are the best source of information, rather than news outlets or corporate think-tanks, which nearly always have a political agenda.


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

"Is it caused by human activities?" Again, the question is badly posed. The climate had huge variations before there were any humans. Many natural phenomena contribute to the climate, and humans do not control them all. The proper question is "Do human activities contribute to climate change?" The scientific data indicate that they do, going back a long time. Core sample evidence can be found of the impact of the beginnings of agriculture (carbon dioxide), and later of the domestication of animals (methane). Burning fires have an effect, as does deforestation.

James Lupton

Tue, Jul 2, 2013 : 1:34 a.m.

I voted your comment "up" but be careful. I wonder how the average reader views such scientific hair splitting? You are right - we need to keep the media's feet to the fire to get them to use the correct language. On the other hand the time for a legitimate CO2 policy is now and we need to convince a significant majority of Americans that there is serious problem. This will require careful communication skills.


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 1:57 p.m.

"Do you believe in climate change?" It is wrong to present it as a theological question. If it is viewed as a scientific question, it is not appropriate to settle it by a poll. Yes, the climate of the earth has changed and fluctuated over the ages, going back before there were any humans, before there were dinosaurs, indeed before there was any life.

James Lupton

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 3:08 p.m.

If we give the article the benefit of the doubt and change the phasing to "Are you concerned about anthropogenic climate change" then we can understand that that is what the author intended to ask. Yes, anthropogenic climate change is unprecedented and has begun to alter the earth's climate even on geological time scales.

Sarah Rigg

Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 1:17 p.m.

The average man who has a little education might find rationalizations not to believe in man-made climate change, but the scientists who are doing the most research in the field overwhelmingly believe there's strong evidence for anthropogenic climate change - on the order of 97 to 99 percent.


Fri, Apr 26, 2013 : 1:03 p.m.

Climate change? Yes. The planet has warmed and cooled over the millenia. Solar output varies and all that. Anthropogenic climate change? Man has some impact. Desertification from anti-livestock policies looks like the big one to me. Anthropogenic climate change so powerful that it can cause runaway temperatures that break homeostasis with the only solution conveniently being fealty to our progressive overlords? No. Al Gore's oceanside mansion is kind of a clue here.

James Lupton

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 3:05 p.m.

You might actually want to learn the science at some point as your position is not supported by the science. The current level of CO2 which is known to be rising directly from human emissions is unprecedented in at least the last 400,000 years. This is not the something that your scientifically naive argument shows an understanding of. Yes, humans are causing climate change and it is very significant. Yes, it will be at least very costly if not catastrophic for our civilization. You should educate yourself on the science before spouting obvious falsehoods.

Robert Hughes

Mon, Jun 10, 2013 : 6:47 p.m.

Big words don't mean you are right.