Americans Cite Natural Weather Disasters as Key Factor in Forming Climate Change Opinions

-- Water Scarcity Emerges as Common Ground in Debate --

  • The 2014 Gibbs & Soell Sense & Sustainability® Study is the business communications firm’s fifth annual survey of U.S. adults about their perceptions of the corporate commitment to “going green.”
  • Sixty percent of Americans are convinced that human actions can cause significant changes to global climate over a long period of time, with the occurrence of natural weather disasters wielding considerable influence on their opinions.
  • Water scarcity is among the most frequently cited issues eliciting increased concerns among climate change believers, skeptics and the unsure.

NEW YORK--()--More than half (60 percent) of Americans believe that climate change is a result of human action such as deforestation and burning of fossil fuels, among other factors, according to the fifth annual Sense & Sustainability® Study released today. Thirty percent of U.S. adults are skeptical while 10 percent are unsure as to the impact of human activity on significant changes in temperature or precipitation over an extended period of time. Natural weather disasters are cited by more than half (57 percent) of Americans as highly influencing their opinions on climate change.

Gibbs & Soell, a global business communications firm with expertise in sustainability consulting for the advanced manufacturing, agribusiness and food, consumer, financial services, and home and building markets, commissioned Harris Poll to conduct the fifth edition of the Sense & Sustainability Study. This survey was fielded online between January 9 and 13, 2014 among 2,039 U.S. adults. The timeframe of the research coincided with the U.S. National Weather Service’s report of the initial occurrence this year of the North American cold wave, popularly known as a “polar vortex,” from January 2 to 11, 2014.

“The results speak to the importance of making big issues like climate change more personal and relatable,” said Ron Loch, senior vice president and managing director, sustainability consulting, Gibbs & Soell. “Even for those people not affected by an extreme weather event, news of hurricanes, droughts and blizzards evoke fear, concern and empathy. That’s why storytelling is so important when discussing issues of sustainability and social responsibility. It makes the larger problem more relevant and helps gain the kind of attention that can lead to understanding and meaningful action.”

Key findings include the following:

  • Natural weather disasters significantly influence the formation of opinions about climate change among Americans (57 percent) and the three subgroups: believers (73 percent), skeptics (36 percent) and the unsure (30 percent). Media coverage of scientific research is also highly influential, cited by 46 percent of Americans, including 59 percent of believers, 25 percent of skeptics and 24 percent of the unsure. Among skeptics, a small yet substantial number (27 percent) say the opinions of family and trusted acquaintances are significantly influential.
  • Water scarcity emerges as a significant cause of heightened concern for Americans (48 percent), as compared to five years ago. In isolating subgroups according to their attitudes about climate change, water scarcity is among the top three issues for believers (56 percent), skeptics (40 percent) and the unsure (22 percent). Among skeptics, a small yet substantial number (16 percent) point to climate change among issues that cause more concern now as compared to five years ago.
  • The general public bears considerable responsibility for the well-being of people, communities and the environment, according to the majority of Americans (64 percent) and all three climate change subgroups: believers (71 percent), skeptics (56 percent) and the unsure (42 percent).
  • For the third year in a row, the Sense & Sustainability® Study finds that only about one in five U.S. adults (21 percent) believes that the majority of businesses (“most,” “almost all,” or “all”) are committed to “going green.” This marks an increase as compared to the study’s first results five years ago, which found that a mere 16 percent of Americans believed that the majority of companies are dedicated to improving the health of the environment.
  • In the area of general knowledge about environmental matters, Americans’ confidence continues to slip. In 2014, 55 percent say they feel well-informed about topics related to sustainability and the environment, as compared to 61 percent in 2012, when the question was first asked in the study.
  • Access to information may hold a clue. More than half (59 percent) of U.S. adults say they often encounter information about businesses “going” green in the media they typically rely on for news. This number has declined as compared to when the question was first asked in the study in 2012, when 65 percent said they detected green business news in the media they regularly consumed.

Gibbs & Soell has a long-established communications record in sustainability consulting, corporate social responsibility, and successfully launching and guiding the growth of green products, technologies and practices. The firm counsels a growing number of clients to help them align sustainability to their corporate strategies, produce compelling sustainability reports, and engage key stakeholders in constructive dialogue.

To obtain a summary of the Gibbs & Soell Sense & Sustainability® Study, please visit the Gibbs & Soell website.

About Gibbs & Soell, Inc.

Gibbs & Soell, Inc. is an independent business communications firm with headquarters in New York and offices in Chicago, Raleigh, N.C., and Basel, Switzerland. The firm’s global network extends across more than 50 countries through its PROI Worldwide partnership. Gibbs & Soell integrates business and communications strategies, using a full range of communications services, to build sustainable relationships for clients along the entire value chain. We inspire action that drives results. For more information, please visit www.gibbs-soell.com.

About the Gibbs & Soell Sense & Sustainability® Study

The 2014 Gibbs & Soell Sense & Sustainability Study is the business communications firm’s fifth annual survey of U.S. adults about business efforts to improve the health of the environment through sustainable practices, products, or services. The survey was fielded on behalf of Gibbs & Soell by Harris Poll. The study was conducted online within the United States between January 9 and 13, 2014 via the QuickQuery online omnibus service among 2,039 U.S. adults ages 18+. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Mary C. Buhay.

Contacts

Gibbs & Soell, Inc.
Mary C. Buhay, 212-697-2600
mbuhay@gibbs-soell.com

Release Summary

The 2014 Gibbs & Soell Sense & Sustainability® Study is the business communications firm’s fifth annual survey of U.S. adults about their perceptions of the corporate commitment to “going green.”

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Contacts

Gibbs & Soell, Inc.
Mary C. Buhay, 212-697-2600
mbuhay@gibbs-soell.com