An Oct. 2 article incorrectly said that President Bush was unconvinced that global warming was the result of human activity. Bush said in July that humans were "contributing" to the rising temperature of Earth's atmosphere. (Published 10/6/2005)
A majority of Americans believe Earth's atmosphere is heating up, but they doubt that global warming is to blame for the deadly storms that have struck the United States this hurricane season, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The survey found that 56 percent believed that global warming is occurring, whereas 40 percent said they were not convinced. That is unchanged from a poll conducted in April, before the hurricane season, which suggests that hurricanes Katrina and Rita did not substantially alter the public's view on climate change.
Similar proportions doubted that global warming was to blame for this year's rash of major hurricanes. A modest majority -- 54 percent -- said the bad storm season is just one of those things "that happen from time to time," but 39 percent said it was the result of climate change.
Americans also were divided over whether the government should take immediate action to address global climate change. Nearly half -- 47 percent -- said the problem must be studied further before the government acts, while 41 percent said it requires "immediate government action."
Scientists have documented a gradual increase in Earth's temperature in recent decades. Most authorities on climate change believe that the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and gasoline, is at least partially responsible for the rise. Some scientists disagree, however, saying the increase may be the result of normal weather cycles.
President Bush has earned the wrath of environmentalists and others for saying that he thinks global warming is occurring but that he is not convinced climate change is the result of human activity.
The debate over the weather has a decidedly partisan cast, the survey found. Two-thirds of all Democrats said they were convinced global warming was occurring, and nearly as many Republicans disagreed. A narrow majority of Democrats said climate change requires government intervention; a bigger share of Republicans said it is a long-term problem that does not require quick action.
The new poll found that relatively few Americans saw the recent storms as God's work, and only a fraction of those said the storms were divine punishment.
About one in four Americans -- 23 percent -- viewed the storms as "deliberate acts of God." Among those who saw a divine hand at work this hurricane season, only 8 percent believed that God sent the storms to punish sinners. About half said the storms were intended as a "warning," but one in seven viewed them as tests of faith. Evangelical Christians were only slightly more likely than the general public to see hurricanes as acts of God or to view them as a divine punishment.
A total of 1,019 randomly selected adults were interviewed by telephone Sept. 23 to 27. The margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus three percentage points.