Worries are increasing about extreme weather forcing people from their homes. A new survey finds that 79% of the global population, 69% of Americans, are now concerned that they or a loved one may eventually get displaced by the weather. It also suggests that people have grown more concerned about a variety of environmental issues in just the past year.
The State of Science Index (SOSI) survey was conducted by 3M for each of the past five years. The global research firm Ipsos interviewed 1,000 people in the general population, over 18 years old, in each of 17 countries. "The survey tracks the public image of science revealing trend lines over time as to how much people trust, respect and value science and the role it plays in their lives," explained the SOSI manifesto.
Of those surveyed globally, 74% now say they are concerned about climate change, a 5% increase over last year. The numbers are identical when it comes to concerns about intensifying natural disasters.
Of Americans surveyed, 66% fear intensifying natural disasters, up 5 points from 2021 and 63%, up 5 points from 2021, fear climate change is getting worse.
This is a significant number considering only 88% of those Americans polled feel that climate change is real (compared to 93% globally). 64% feel that climate change personally affects them.
The survey found that 73% of people globally are now more concerned about pollution from ocean plastics, a 3 point increase over last year. Those worried about air pollution are also climbed 3 points to 71%. Worries about clean water increased by 2 points over the past year to 66%.
Americans’ concerns increased as well: 64% ocean plastics (up 1%), 59% air pollution (up 1%) and 63% clean water supply (up 3%).
Do you trust science?
Americans, 58%, feel that science is very important to their everyday life, which is down from the height of the pandemic by nine points but higher than 2019’s 45%. But, 34% are skeptical of science.
However, 81% of Americans agree that there are negative consequences for society if people do not trust or value science. The top consequences, the study revealed, people feel that if the public does not trust stories about science in the news are more public health crises, more division within society and an increase in the severity of climate change effects.
Moreover, Americans are skeptical of science reporting. Only 72% of Americans trust science-based facts published in the news. Only 37% trust science-based facts published on social media. The study did find that 31% of respondents completely trust news stories about science. The percentage goes down for sports, health, economics and public affairs.
Americans do feel overwhelmingly, 89%, that humans will become more dependent on scientific knowledge in the future. Only 75% of those asked in Japan feel the world will become more dependent on science.
As a nation, we are more likely to trust scientists and engineers.
What do people feel science can solve?
Clean water, 61%, tops the issues that the U.S. wants science to solve. Air quality comes second with 53% on important issues for science to solve. The study identified 48% of Americans being effects by climate change as a need to solve which compares to 58% globally.
About 57% of Americans feel the U.S. is doing a good job at becoming more sustainable as opposed to 93% of China, 87% of India and 84% of South Korea.
While over half of Americans say they have recycled in the past six months; only 43% say they’ve reduced water use, 42% reduced plastic use, 36% bought sustainable/recyclable products and 28% bought energy-efficient appliances.
The most common reason for not personally doing more to lessen the effects of climate change is price.
Americans are still wary, compared to the global average of ‘futuristic’ innovations like self-driving cars, space travel and artificial intelligence. Just over half said they would accept a ride in a driverless car but only 36% feel this will be a part of normal life in five years.
When available, 41% said they would likely travel to space but only 24% feel it will be commonplace by 2027.
And one in three feel that Artificial Intelligence will take their jobs in the next five years. Only 45% trust how private companies and 43% trust how the government is using the technology.
Studies such as this one will shape how public policies and the private industry set initiatives.
"People increasingly recognize the intersection between science and social impact as they look to science to solve problems beyond the pandemic, such as health equity, STEM equity and sustainability," wrote 3M.