These slides are from the results of a study released by the Yale Project on Climate Change in the autumn of 2008, which surveyed Americans on their ideas and attitudes about climate change (you can download a PDF of the report here).

This report made its way here last September when several SOF staff members attended an American Public Media conference on sustainability coverage — which also included producers from Marketplace, American Radio Works, and Minnesota Public Radio. Edward Maibach, one of the Yale study’s principal investigators, was also there to talk about the conclusions of the “Six Americas” — six different profiles of U.S. dispositions on climate change:

The Alarmed (18 percent of the U.S. adult population) are the segment most engaged in the issue of global warming. They are very convinced it is happening, human-caused, and a serious and urgent threat. The Alarmed are already making changes in their own lives and support an aggressive national response (see graphs below).

The Concerned (33 percent) are also convinced that global warming is a serious problem and support a vigorous national response. Members of this group have signaled their intention to at least engage in consumer action on global warming in the near term, but they are less personally involved in the issue and have taken fewer actions than the Alarmed.

The Cautious (19 percent) also believe that global warming is a problem, although they are less certain that it is happening than the Alarmed or the Concerned. They do not view it as a personal threat, and do not feel a sense of urgency to deal with it.

The Disengaged (12 percent) do not know and have not thought much about the issue at all and say that they could easily change their minds about global warming.

The Doubtful (11 percent) are evenly split among those who think global warming is happening, those who think it isn’t, and those who do not know. Many within this group believe that if global warming is happening, it is caused by natural changes in the environment. They believe that it won’t harm people for many decades, if at all, and they say that America is already doing enough to respond to the threat.

The Dismissive (7 percent), like the Alarmed, are actively engaged in the issue, but are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Most members of this group believe that global warming is not happening, is not a threat to either people or non-human nature, and strongly believe that it does not warrant a national response.

After looking through information on the subject, I’m pretty sure that I sit safely in the larger “concerned” category.

Which one are you?

Share Your Reflection



Scared for the next generation, have nightmares about my unborn grandchildren.

I too am frightened--and while my grandchildren are young, I see them surviving in a world that is far different than the one of today. That gives me nightmares.

Between alarmed and very concerned

I'm very alarmed, but beyond the minor individual adaptations that we can all make (cloth bags, no meat, local shopping, line dry, etc.), I don't know how to get really involved in doing something more helpful

Yes this is a good point ... if you are "alarmed," what are the best ways to turn that alarm into action? One metric the Yale study used to gauge this is "political involvement" — indicating that "alarmed" citizens are more likely to write their representatives.

I am not at all certain that it is not already too late to have any substantial healing effect on our environment. All things taken into account we have not really progressed far from the cliffs and caves from which we emerged over a quarter of a million years ago. Taken collectively we are as heedless now as ever. The notion that humans will survive and remain here in perpetuity is a purely theological notion and by no means scientific. Species come and species go. Perhaps our time is approaching.

I have become more knowledgeable about this subject this year, having done a fair amount of reading. One book I especially recommend is "What's the Worst That Could Happen? A Rational Respons to the Climate Change Debate" by science teacher Greg Craven. At his web site,, one can order the book for only $10, and also watch his highly informative videos under the heading "How It All Ends." He speaks especially effectively, I think, to the climate change skeptics about why they should consider the potential consequences of doing nothing. His credibility spectrum and discussion of risk analysis are quite even-handed.

To reap and to rape are two different things. God calls us to be stewards of what he has provided. Whether we can stop the global warming in its tracks or not, is not the issue. The issue is, that we have a moral obligation to utilize this earth in a responsible manor.

Very alarmed.

I'm alarmed, but also discouraged, and not active enough, although I've focused my giving on environmental issues because, although there are a multitude of worthy causes out there, I believe that "If Mamma ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy." If the peoples of this world don't wake up to the fact that we are not separate from Our Mother, but are made of her, eat her, drink her, breathe her, every moment, and that all living things are connected through her, and that she, too, is alive in a very real sense . . . then we're on the "endangered species list." So . . . I'd like to see my grandchildren have "miino biimaadziiwin"--good life, as the Ojibwa people say--but I wonder, with "mountaintop removal" desecrating my native hills, if they will even know the same old homestead I'm trying to keep for them.

I teach meteorology/climatology and have been alarmed for some time. Earlier this year I read an interview of James Lovelock by the British journal, New Scientist, which can be accessed at
I'm hoping that Lovelock is being too pessimistic, but the realist in me says he recognizes the "big picture." I believe that my three children will age into a completely different world than the one that nurtured me. I hope they can cope. I am very sad that my generation has failed to act in time to avert the huge environmental disaster that is likely to come in their lifetimes.

Thanks for the link! I found Lovelock's perspective as an "optimistic pessimist" interesting:

"I see humans as rather like the first photosynthesisers, which when they first appeared on the planet caused enormous damage by releasing oxygen - a nasty, poisonous gas. It took a long time, but it turned out in the end to be of enormous benefit. I look on humans in much the same light. For the first time in its 3.5 billion years of existence, the planet has an intelligent, communicating species that can consider the whole system and even do things about it. They are not yet bright enough, they have still to evolve quite a way, but they could become a very positive contributor to planetary welfare."

Alarmed to the point of often waking in the middle of the night spending time on the computer noodling about what to do next (2 years ago I put emergency food in the basement, last ear we weathered 9 mo of unemployment, this has been the year of the big garden & the energy audit so that we can make some improvements before the smaller set of tax credits expires, next year is starting to look like the year of permaculture . . .)

I'm very alarmed and have been since learning about the idea of extinction in my childhood. I see my close friends shaking their heads about what's happening but then acting out their own laziness on a daily basis in the most basic ways... leaving lights on, not recycling, idling their cars with the air or heat on before getting in. I too make donations to environmental causes and I am actively involved on a local level. My view is that if those of us who are alarmed get involved in our communities we will have a larger overall effect. It's too much for me to think about the global consequences, so I break it down realizing that lots of local action adds up to global action.

I'm in the "alarmed" category. I was already very concerned, but now I have seen "Chasing Ice," a film about James Balog's project to make time-lapse photographs of disappearing glaciers. I am alarmed about the changes in our air and water, alarmed about the rate of these changes, alarmed about the complacency of the remaining 82 per cent. We CAN give up whatever it will take to make important changes in our severely disproportionate energy use. And we MUST.

I have come to the conclusion that we all have a little blame global warming and its consequences and guilt even more politicians who do not slow down.

I am among the "concerned." It seems that taking care of our beautiful earth is one of the core values of a conscious life--a life lived not just for self--but as a tiny member of a much larger dynamic.