Florida Believes in Global Warming, but Only Miami Thinks It Will Be Harmful

Florida Believes in Global Warming, but Only Miami Thinks It Will Be Harmful
Photo by maxstrz / Flickr

Because good climate-change news is about as common in Florida as a calm and pleasant rush-hour drive on I-95, let's start there first: The vast majority of the Sunshine State now believes global warming is a real phenomenon supported by scientific evidence. That's great!

But this is Florida, so you know there's a Lake Okeechobee-size "but" hanging at the end of that first sentence. And it turns out that despite widespread belief in climate change, Miami-Dade is the only county where most residents believe the global problem will personally harm them.

Those results are according to a massive ongoing study by Yale's Program on Climate Change Communication, which has been tracking public opinion on the subject for years. The program uses a huge dataset of survey responses from more than 18,000 Americans over the age of 25 to chart attitudes on climate change, all the way down to the county level.

That data has allowed Yale researchers to create some eye-popping maps. We'll begin with the chart that might make you feel mildly better about Florida's scientific acumen. This map shows the percentage of Floridians (and the nation as a whole) who believe global warming is real:
click to enlarge Most of Florida believes climate change is happening. - VIA YALE PROGRAM ON CLIMATE CHANGE COMMUNICATION
Most of Florida believes climate change is happening.
via Yale Program on Climate Change Communication
Pretty good! Outside of a few holdouts in the upper Panhandle who remain skeptical of a phenomenon that 99 percent of scientists agree is occurring, Florida is largely on the right track here.

Considering that the state is surrounded by thousands of miles of coastline threatened by rising sea levels and potentially more frequent and stronger hurricanes fueled by global warming, you'd be forgiven for assuming those same Florida residents are pretty stressed over the whole subject.

That's not what Yale's research found, however. Here's another map, this one showing the percentage of people in each Florida county who believe that "global warming will harm [them] personally."
via Yale Program on Climate Change Communication
The vast majority of the nation is pretty copacetic about the whole rapidly warming globe situation, even Florida! As the map shows, only Miami-Dade registered above 50 percent on this question — and even Dade County is surprisingly sanguine, with just 51 percent of residents sweating the consequences of climate change.

To be fair, a separate question that asked how "worried" residents are about global warming did find a handful of other Florida counties topping 60 percent, including Monroe, Alachua, and Osceola. But that's still a strikingly low number considering how much of the state is onboard with the basic idea of climate change.

Yale's entire project — which includes dozens of county-specific maps — is fascinating and worth exploring.
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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink