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Poll Reveals Americans Are Divided on Seriousness of Global Warming

A recent poll conducted by the Gallup Organization has revealed that Americans feel unprepared to determine whether climate change is as grave as some scientists believe.

According to the poll, only 17% of Americans say they understand the issue of global warming "very well." Another 52% say they understand it "fairly well" while about one-third say "not very well" or "not at all."

According to Gallup, coverage of climate change in the news may explain the American public’s confusion. In a recent report on its poll, the organization explained that the year 2002 has been the bearer of conflicting signs about the seriousness of climate change, “First, an Antarctic ice shelf the size of Rhode Island melted to pieces through the month of February following unusually warm regional temperatures. Then last week, a study released in the journal Science concluded that the current global warm spell could just be part of the Earth’s natural temperature cycles.”

The pole also revealed that, despite confusion, Americans do have opinions about global warming. According to the survey, about one-third of Americans view climate change as a very serious problem, while one-third believe it is a moderate problem and another third are only mildly concerned or discount the problem altogether.

More than half of Americans surveyed think climate change is for real, with 53% saying that the effects of climatic change have already begun to occur. Another 5% believe they will start within a few years and 13% expect these effects to happen in their lifetimes. The survey revealed that 17% believe the effects will be postponed to future generations and 9% are completely skeptical, saying that deleterious effects from global warming will never happen.

However, when asked how much they worry about the greenhouse effect or global warming just under a third of Americans -- 29% -- say they worry a great deal about it; another 29% worry a fair amount, while 40% worry only a little or not at all.

According to Gallup, concern about most environmental problems, not just global warming, has declined sharply over the past two years. The organization says this is most likely due to increasing concern about the economy and terrorism over the same period. Last year at this time, 42% were concerned a great deal about the environment, compared to 35% today.

Gallup also reported that Americans are divided on the reliability of media coverage of the issue. One-third of Americans believe that news reports of the problem are generally correct; another third believe they are exaggerated and an equal number believe they are underestimated.

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