Majority of Americans Don't Buy Climate Change Threat; State Dept Blames Polling

By Penny Starr | January 18, 2016 | 7:10pm EST
Todd Stern, U.S. Department of State special envoy on climate change, spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 15, 2016. ( Starr)

( – The State Department special envoy on climate change said on Friday that although a recent poll shows that 62 percent of Americans don’t think climate change will pose a threat in their lifetime, a sampling of “good polling” would reveal increasing public concern. asked Todd Stern: “In March of 2015, Gallup took a poll, and 55 percent of Americans were concerned about climate change, and also they asked a specific question: Do you think that global warming will pose a serious threat to you or your way of life in your lifetime, and in 2015, 62 percent of Americans said, ‘No.’ How do those numbers jibe with what you’re saying about an increasing number of people believing in climate change and its effects?”

“I’m not armed with poll numbers that I’ve look at recently,” Stern said at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington, D.C. “Look, I think a lot of  -- here and everywhere else – questions like this depend enormously on what the nature of the question is and how it’s phrased, and then for people to say they don’t think it’s a serious threat within their lifetime is completely understandable given what – the way the issue is commonly talked about and understood in the press.

“So I think if we were – if you’re an election buff and you look at Real Clear Politics every day like I do, you’ll see that there’s a whole bunch of polls in New Hampshire, Iowa, this place, that place, and the line that’s at the top of Real Clear is an average of a bunch of polls,” said Stern, who was appointed to the post by Hillary Clinton in 2009.



“So I think if we did a sampling of good polling and a range of the way the question is asked, you would see that there is, in fact, a real movement up in the level of U.S. public concern,” Stern said.

Stern was speaking at CFR about the recent United Nations climate change agreement that the Obama administration signed onto in Paris late last year. The agreement includes the U.S. providing funding to developing nations to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

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