While 63 percent of Americans believe that global warming is happening, many do not understand why, according to a Yale project study on climate change communication. The study finds that eight percent of Americans have knowledge equivalent to an A or B grade, while 40 percent would receive a C or D, and 52 percent would get an F.

The study, “Americans’ Knowledge of Climate Change” (PDF), also finds gaps in knowledge and common misconceptions about climate change and the earth system, which has led some people to doubt global warming or that human activities are a major contributor, say researchers.

Researchers say this lack of knowledge can lead to uninformed decision making.

Here are some of the key findings:

–57 percent know that the greenhouse effect refers to gases in the atmosphere that trap heat

–50 percent of Americans understand that global warming is caused mostly by human activities

–45 percent understand that carbon dioxide traps heat from the Earth’s surface

–25 percent have ever heard of coral bleaching or ocean acidification

The study also finds that most Americans understand that emissions from cars and trucks and the burning of fossil fuels contribute to global warming, and that a transition to renewable energy sources is an important solution.

Researchers also say despite the recent controversies over “climategate” and the 2007 IPCC report, Americans trust scientists and scientific organizations far more than any other source of information about global warming.

They also recognize their own limited understanding of the issue. Only 1 in 10 say that they are “very well informed” about climate change, and 75 percent say they would like to know more.

 

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