Maryland and Virginia residents say harm from climate change is arriving

Roughly half of Virginians and 65 percent of Marylanders believe climate change is causing harm or will do so in the next 10 years (locally and/or nationally) according to two recent surveys.

The Maryland survey reports 52 percent of residents believe that the U.S. has already been harmed by climate change and another 13 percent expect climate change to harm Americans within 10 years.

(George Mason University and University of Maryland)

(George Mason University and University of Maryland)

By comparison, in the Virginia survey, 49 percent of residents say they believe climate change is already harming the state or will do so in the next 10 years.

The surveys were released last week by the George Mason Center for Climate Change Communication. The Maryland survey, Public Health, Energy and Climate Change, reveals beliefs on different environmental hazards the public may view as unhealthy whereas the Virginia survey, Perceptions of Weather and Climate Change in Virginia, more broadly explores attitudes about climate change and links to extreme weather.

Maryland survey details

Of the 2,126 Marylanders who were polled in the survey, respondents viewed air pollution as the highest personal health risk, coming in ahead of chemicals, the flu, and even obesity. Climate change ranked eighth.

Despite the relatively low ranking for climate change, over half of the adults surveyed believe that violent storms are becoming a health problem, and 48 percent believe climate change is increasing the risk.

Here are some other interesting numbers from the survey:

  • 79% percent of respondents said that over the past year extreme weather posed a health risk to their community.
  • Nearly 90% of those polled feel that the state and local government should protect the public’s water supplies (86%) and public’s health (80%) from extreme weather and environmental threats.

The survey was conducted through a partnership between George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Virginia survey details

2,000 Virginia residents were polled, with the overwhelming majority (85%) believing that climate change is happening, with 26 percent “extremely sure”.

While most Virginians believe climate change is occurring, their opinions about why it is occurring vary markedly.  36 percent of respondents believe that climate change is “caused more or less equally by human activities and changes in the environment.”  More people believe that climate change is caused mostly by humans (31%) compared to solely natural causes (22%).

Other survey facts:

  • Only 13% of those polled are “very worried” about climate change.  23% are “not at all worried.”
  • 28% of residents believe that climate change is the “major cause” of changing weather in Virginia.  More than half (51%) believe climate change is just one of many causes.
  • 31% of Virginians feel that climate change is hurting Virginia “now.”
  • Only 9% of respondents feel climate change is an “extremely important” issue to them personally.  That’s the same number of people who believe climate change is “not at all important.”
  • 43% feel that “most scientists think climate change is happening.”

One of the most interesting findings out of Virginia survey is that 86 percent of residents trust scientists when as  a source of information about climate change.  77 percent trust television meteorologists and weather reporters, and 61 percent trust the mainstream news media.

The survey was conducted by George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication

Virginia and Maryland compared to national trends

The Virginia survey numbers roughly parallel results on a national scale.  An April report carried out by the Yale Project for Climate Change Communication found only 10 percent of national respondents believe that “global warming is not happening” compared to 13 percent of Virginians. Both surveys found substantial numbers of respondents believe global warming is making severe weather worse, but due to different lines of questioning, the results cannot be directly compared.

The Maryland survey results indicate a larger percentage of its residents (52%) believe climate change is already causing harm in the U.S. compared to the national respondents (34%).

The author, Adam Rainear, is Capital Weather Gang summer intern.

(Jason Samenow contributed to this post).

Clarification, 10:40 p.m.: This posted was updated to break out survey results pertaining to Maryland residents’ beliefs about when climate change will harm people in the U.S. The original version simply said 52 percent of Maryland residents believe climate change is already harming Americans, while omitting that another 13 percent believe it will begin to cause harm within 10 years.

Also on Capital Weather Gang

Rebuttal to "Methane mischief: Misleading commentary published in Nature"