Maybe we have only ourselves to blame. A new survey by the British market research firm Ipsos MORI finds Americans lagging pretty badly in their understanding of environmental science.
In fact, in some respects, we're at the bottom among the 20 nations where a total of about 16,000 people were surveyed.
Take the belief that human activity is an important factor in climate change, a firmly established scientific tenet. True, more than half of Americans say that's true. But at 54%, we rank at the bottom of the heap, a full 10 percentage points below the second-lowest. And first? China, where more than 90% understand the truth about climate change.
Similarly, more than 90% of the Chinese think that people must change their ways dramatically to avoid environmental disaster, more than in any other nation. At 57%, Americans were again at the bottom of the list.
We try to recycle, according to the survey, with 76% reporting that they try to do this environmentally correct thing as much as possible. But we're still in the bottom half, outstripped by significant amounts not only by China again, in top place (or are they just more likely to agree when polled, or know they're supposed to say things like that?) as well as Australia, Canada and Turkey.
To our credit, Americans were among the least likely to believe that the government was using concern about environmental issues merely as an excuse to raise taxes. And the Chinese are the most likely to think that even scientists don't really know what they're talking about when it comes to the environment, with 75% agreeing. Americans have more belief in scientists — if not, sad to say, in what those scientists are trying to tell us about climate.