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Gallup’s annual update on Americans’ attitudes toward the environment shows a public that over the last two years has become less worried about the threat of global warming, less convinced that its effects are already happening, and more likely to believe that scientists themselves are uncertain about its occurrence. In response to one key question, 48% of Americans now believe that the seriousness of global warming is generally exaggerated, up from 41% in 2009 and 31% in 1997, when Gallup first asked the question.

These results are based on the annual Gallup Social Series Environment poll, conducted March 4-7 of this year. The survey results show that the reversal in Americans’ concerns about global warming that began last year has continued in 2010 — in some cases reverting to the levels recorded when Gallup began tracking global warming measures more than a decade ago.

For example, the percentage of Americans who now say reports of global warming are generally exaggerated is by a significant margin the highest such reading in the 13-year history of asking the question. In 1997, 31% said global warming’s effects had been exaggerated; last year, 41% said the same, and this year the number is 48%.

Fewer Americans Think Effects of Global Warming Are Occurring

“In a sharp turnaround from what Gallup found as recently as three years ago, Americans are now almost evenly split in their views of the cause of increases in the Earth’s temperature over the last century.”Many global warming activists have used film and photos of melting ice caps and glaciers, and the expanding reach of deserts, to drive home their point that global warming is already having alarming effects on the earth. While these efforts may have borne fruit over much of the 2000s, during the last two years, Americans’ convictions about global warming’s effects have waned.

A majority of Americans still agree that global warming is real, as 53% say the effects of the problem have already begun or will do so in a few years. That percentage is dwindling, however. The average American is now less convinced than at any time since 1997 that global warming’s effects have already begun or will begin shortly.

Meanwhile, 35% say that the effects of global warming either will never happen (19%) or will not happen in their lifetimes (16%).

The 19% figure is more than double the number who held this view in 1997.

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