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Most metro Atlantans think global warning is happening, manmade, Yale survey shows

The vibrant yellow-orange color of a sunset is a signature of air pollution, according to a report in 'Scientific American.' File/Credit: Jeff Joslin

By David Pendered

A majority of metro Atlanta residents think global warning is happening, is caused by human activities and is affecting the weather. A majority thinks global warming will harm future generations, according to a new survey by an affiliate of Yale University.

The vibrant yellow-orange color of a sunset is a signature of air pollution from burnt fossil fuels, according to a report in ‘Scientific American.’ File/Credit: Jeff Joslin

In addition, about 59 percent of metro Atlanta residents think Georgia’s governor should do more to address global warming. The issue hasn’t gained much traction in the campaigns of gubernatorial candidates Stacy Abrams and Brian Kemp.

Kemp’s website references his thoughts on the environment in an introductory video titled, Brian Kemp’s Story of Fighting – and Winning – for Georgia:

  • “I love to hunt. I love to fish. Grew up playing sports. Taught responsibility, love of the land, how to handle a firearm.”

Abrams’ website touches on the environment in a platform plank related to her support for the creation of advanced energy jobs:

  • “Georgia deserves a leader who sees clean, advanced energy as a stable source of economic development, a public health necessity, and an environmental justice imperative.”

The survey findings are included in the 2018 edition of the Yale Climate Opinion Maps, released Aug 7 by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. The program says it uses results of its research to engage different audiences in climate change solutions.

This is the same program that previously determined there are six Americas when it comes to climate change. These segments are occupied by those who are alarmed, concerned, cautious, disengaged, doubtful or dismissive. These researchers also tracked an uptick in concern in the United States after Pope Francis released a paper in 2015 stating that climate change is real and is “a result of human activity.”

The federal government estimated that weather and climate disasters in 2017 inflicted $16 billion in damages. Credit: Center for a Sustainable Coast

The new opinion survey registers concerns among adults 25 years or older in metro Atlanta.

Responses to the survey’s 26 questions suggest that metro Atlantans are in agreement with the nation as a whole on many issues related to climate change. That is, the local responses are within the 8 percent margin of error compared to the national responses.

For example, 82 percent of metro Atlanta residents support tax rebates for people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels, results show. The rate mirrors the national average.

Of note, this is the type of incentive that state lawmakers eliminated in 2015. The Legislature waived a $2,500 tax credit on alternate-fuel vehicles as a way to help pay for the Transportation Funding Act.

Yet global warming isn’t a top-of-mind issue for most residents of metro Atlanta, or the nation.

Twenty percent of area residents say they hear about global warming in the media at least once a week; the remaining 80 percent hear of global warming monthly, a few times a year or never. That’s on par with the national average.


Some scientists predict climate change will increase the frequency and severity of storms and flooding. File/Credit: Jeff Joslin

A third of metro residents talk about global warming at least occasionally. The other answers provided to respondents were often, rarely and never. Again, the national average is in line with that of metro Atlanta.

Regarding the long-discussed proposal to charge fossil fuel companies a carbon tax, 69 percent of metro Atlantans support the notion. Again, that’s in line with the national response.

However, these answers may be misleading because the question was not precise or specific, according to David Kyler, executive director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, on St. Simons Island. Kyler raised the issue as he drew attention to the survey’s broader findings.

The question presented to respondents was:

  • “How much do you support or oppose the following policies?
    “Require fossil fuel companies to pay a carbon tax and use the money to reduce other taxes (such as income tax) by an equal amount.”

Kyler viewed the question as allowing wiggle room for respondents who saw a way to reduce their taxes. And it did not address the issue of using a carbon tax to remediate past damages, he said.

“The survey is encouraging but inconclusive because it ties fossil fuel tax increases to reducing other taxes,” Kyler said in an email exchange Monday. “That could provide an incentive for some respondents to support the proposal regardless of impacts on reducing greenhouse gases. Also uncertain is whether any revenue generated would be used to compensate for damages done by fossil fuel emissions.”


Jekyll Island suffered serious inundation during Hurricane Irma, which came ashore in September 2017. Credit: Center for a Sustainable Coast


yale, six americas

Yale University researchers have identified six categories that relate to positions on climate change as expressed by adults in the United States. About 70 percent register some level of concern. Credit: climatecommunication.yale.edu


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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  1. brainstar8 August 14, 2018 9:56 am

    Yes, there is global warming. It is cyclic, and it is manmade. The world is now at 7 billion humans strong. Many live in poverty. Even those who do not, in the obnoxiously affluent U.S., join City Hall protests about global warming but build second-home McMansions overlooking the water. Go figure. We crowd our national parks and leave them cluttered. Then we go back to City Hall with our homemade signs warning of GLOBAL WARMING. IT’S MAN-MADE. (In Atlanta, protesters aren’t even savvy enough to protest the corruption in their own city.)

    Looking for captivating non-fiction. Read “Sapiens.” Stick with it. You will be rewarded.Report

  2. Bob Peppel August 14, 2018 10:36 am

    15,000 years ago there were glaciers in Ohio. As soon as they prove that carbon emissions caused them to recede, I will give credence to claims that global warming is manmadeReport

  3. Craig Pendergrast August 14, 2018 12:55 pm

    Please read the New York Times magazine article from two weeks ago. And please do so with a mind open to facts and science.Report

  4. Chris Johnston August 14, 2018 7:02 pm

    And exactly why should I believe anything I read in the New York Times, given their speckled recent history?Report

  5. Bob Peppel August 21, 2018 11:00 am

    I go back to my original point. Until they determine what caused other warming trends, how can they say that is not the cause of the current warming trend? Manmade is very plausible but it is only a theory and just because one or more people agree with it doesn’t make it trueReport


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