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Extreme Weather and Warm Winters Don't Convince Climate Skeptics

First Posted: Nov 25, 2014 08:37 AM EST

When it comes to climate change and global warming, extreme weather can play a major role in proving its existence-or can it? Scientists have found that climate change skeptics are unmoved by droughts, floods, heat waves and other weather events.

Only about 35 percent of U.S citizens believe that global warming was the main cause of the abnormally high temperatures during the winter of 2012. In fact, winter 2012 was the fourth warmest winter in the United States dating back to at least 1895. Yet it appears that this didn't change minds.

In order to better understand this mentality, the researchers analyzed March 2012 Gallup Poll data of more than 1,000 people and examined how individuals' responses related to actual temperatures in their home states.

What did they find? When it came to attributing abnormally warm weather to global warming, respondents held fast to their existing beliefs and weren't influenced by actual temperatures. Instead, political party identification played a significant role in determining global warming beliefs; people who identified as Republican tended to doubt the existence of global warming while Democrats generally believed in it.

What's interesting is that the winter of 2012 was just one in an ongoing series of severe weather events, including the 2010 Russian heat wave and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. While researchers believed that these events might convince skeptics, it appears that isn't the case.

"There's been a lot of talk among climate scientists, politicians and journalists that warmer winters like this would change people's minds," said Aaron McCright, one of the researchers, in a news release. "That the more people are exposed to climate change, the more they'll become convinced. Thisstudy suggests this is not the case."

The findings are published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

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