By David Singh
Geneva - A new study finds that 51 percent of Americans believe that extreme weather will cause a natural disaster in their own community in the next year.
Although 55 percent of Americans have thought about preparing for a disaster, only 36 percent have a disaster emergency plan that all members of their family know about while 37 percent have an emergency supply kit in their homes, according to Extreme Weather, Climate & Preparedness in the American Mind, a survey carried out last month by the Yale Project on Climate Communication and George Mason University for Climate Communication,
The survey also finds that a large majority of Americans believe that global warming made several high profile extreme weather events worse.
Global warming was felt by respondents to be the cause in the U.S. of the unusually warm winter of December 2011 and January 2012 (72%); record high temperatures in 2011 (70%); the 2011 drought in Texas and Oklahoma (69%); record snowfall in 2010 and 2011 (61%); the 2011 Mississippi River floods in spring (63%); and Hurricane Irene (59 percent).
According to the survey, "In 2011 Americans experienced a record-breaking 14 weather and climate disasters that each caused $1 billion or more in damages, which amounted to approximately $53 billion in total, along with incalculable loss of human life."
From January through March 2012, Americans also experienced record warm temperatures, with temperatures across the contiguous United States 6.0 degrees above the long-term average. In March alone, 15,292 warm temperature records were broken across the United States.
"Most people in the country are looking at everything that's happened; it just seems to be one disaster after another after another," said Anthony A. Leiserowitz of Yale University, one of the researchers who commissioned the new poll. "People are starting to connect the dots."
The poll opens a new window on public opinion about climate change, states the New York Times. "Scientists
may hesitate to link some of the weather of recent years to global climate warming- the public, it seems, is already there", it observed.
The Yale-George Mason University Survey was funded by the Surdna Foundation, the 11th Hour Project and the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment. It comes as a series of dissemination events take place around the world for the IPCC's Special Report On Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) which provides low interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters and businesses of all sizes as well as nonprofit organizations, last year received 11,000-plus applications for disaster loans from businesses that were damaged by Hurricane Irene. Yet even though providing disaster loans is part of its business portfolio, James Rivera, Associate Administrator of the SBA's Office of Disaster Assistance, believes that the number of applicants would be much smaller if those businesses had been prepared for a disaster before it struck.
"From the SBA's perspective, if you have a solid business continuity plan in place, you really won't need a disaster loan from us," Rivera said. "That never hurts my feelings. We never get hurt at the SBA if you don't need a disaster loan."
As of 2011, only 35 percent of small - and medium-sized business in the United States had a disaster recovery plan, according to a US Small Businesses survey by the technology firm Gartner Inc.