Climate Change: Why Do Most Americans Think It's Not a Threat In Their Lifetimes?

A recent poll by Gallup reports that while climate change is becoming an increasingly concerning threat, most Americans aren't too worried about massive global changes in environment and temperature. While the number of Americans worried about global warming has certainly risen in the last few years, most Americans continue to see climate change as something that will not affect their daily lives. While it’s nice to see that Americans are finally taking this issue seriously, it’s just the beginning: we must take these concerns and make them advocacy in order to truly avoid the most detrimental impact of global warming.  We must also understanding that our awareness may come too late.

One aspect of the Gallup poll that is particularly hopefully is the emphasis on the decreasing number of Americans convinced that climate change is a myth or a hoax. As Gallup says, "Currently, 57% of Americans say global warming is caused by human activities, up from 50% in 2010, although still slightly lower than the all-time high of 61%." While this information is encouraging, it does not negate the fact that climate change, while we were disputing its validity, has caused significant changes in the earth’s seasonal patterns, with incredible impact on the world's poor and all of us. With such devastating economic and scientific statistics, the debonair perspective of Americans towards climate change seems particularly horrifying. 

The only way to truly best climate change and make a world that is not toxic for anyone to live in goes far beyond "believing" in climate change. The fact that most Americans do not seem to think that climate change will affect the world in their lifetime (and thereby, themselves) seems indicative of why so many Americans are somewhat apathetic about climate change’s detriments. If climate change’s effects will not come to fruition in the next 50 years, why bother trying to change it?  Alas, that perspective is misguided: climate change is already affecting all of our lives, from the abnormally long winters to the incredible prevalence of natural disasters. What is needed to fight back goes far beyond awareness, and extends into holding policymakers accountable to the people who must live with the devastation from climate change, and not just beholden to the people who contribute to its rise.  In short, what is needed is not awareness: what is needed is a movement. Hopefully a world in which climate change is seen as the greatest priority is not so far away that it will come too late.