As sure as a sweaty September, a large majority of Coloradans believe global warming is happening, according to a new statewide survey.
The report, Climate Change in the Coloradan Mind, found that, of the 800 adults surveyed, 70 percent believe global warming is real and 19 percent do not. Of the same sample, 73 percent said that global warming is very or somewhat important to them, and over half are very or somewhat worried about it.
"Coloradans are taking global warming seriously," said lead investigator Anthony Leiserowitz, Ph.D. "And many -- by our measure, about half of Coloradans -- say they have seen the impact of climate change with their own eyes, such as the increased severity of wildfires, droughts, reduced snowpack, and heat waves."
Although most Coloradans are aware of and concerned about global warming, only about half believe climate change is predominantly caused by humans. Less than half -- 41 percent -- believe that most scientists think global warming is happening.
A less dramatic majority of respondents said they would like to see more action from government and elected officials. At least half want their representatives, at all levels, to do more to address global warming. Two-thirds -- 66 percent -- said their local government should be better preparing for the impacts of climate change, and 61 percent said the same for the state level.
The report was conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. The project will be releasing similar state-specific reports for California, Ohio and Texas in the coming weeks, but Leiserowitz was not able to speak on their findings.
Leiserowitz said Colorado was chosen for the survey because it is a "bellwether" state for its "purple" political balance, diverse regional geography, transitioning demographics and because "it is experiencing the local effects of climate change in a severe way."
"We found that Coloradans are seriously observing drought, wildfires and declines in snowpack," Leiserowitz said, explaining the state's 70 percent consensus on climate change. "They are connecting the dots between a global phenomenon and its local effects."
A similarly worded nationwide survey done in April found that 63 percent of Americans believe in global warming.
University of Colorado professor Tad Pfeffer, said he was encouraged by the high percentage of Coloradans who believe in climate change.
Pfeffer, a glaciologist for the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and co-founder of the Extreme Ice Survey, said "I'm surprised it's so high because I follow the issue and have seen how difficult it is to gain traction."
Leiserowitz said it is a myth among Americans that scientists are divided on the legitimacy of climate change.
"According to surveys and reviews of published research, at least 97 percent of climate scientists agree that human-caused climate change is real," he said.
Making a comparison to offensives by the tobacco industry to throw haze on the health effects of smoking, Leiserowitz blamed a "strategic campaign" by "certain institutions" for convincing half of America that scientists don't agree on the issue.
Pfeffer agreed that "clever political opposition" has effectively clouded the issue in the minds of Americans.
"It's been a pretty long battle," he said.
Both scientists acknowledged that there are divided opinions within the scientific community, but not on whether climate change is real.
Leiserowitz said, "What is being debated is when, where and how it will materialize."