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Survey: Many Americans think climate change will cause most rivers in the West to dry up

A wide shot of Lake Mead and the surrounding mountains. The sky is blue and clouds are hanging at the mountain peaks.
Mark Gunn
Flickr Creative Commons
Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the U.S., is fed by the drought-stricken Colorado River.

A new survey shows many Americans think climate change is causing harm to people right now – and they don’t expect things to get any better.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Americans think the effects of climate change will get worse in their lifetime, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center, which surveyed 8,842 U.S. adults between Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2023.

More than half of U.S. adults think the Southwest (55%), Southern California (60%) and coastal Florida (61%) will become worse places to live over the next 30 years. Less than a third (30%) feel that way about the Mountain West.

Many Americans also expect climate change to make environmental harms worse in the coming decades. More than half (54%) expect widespread drought in the West will cause most rivers to dry up, and nearly two-thirds (61%) say heat-related deaths will continue to rise every year.

Still, climate change concern is not increasing among Americans, said Alec Tyson, associate director of research at Pew.

"Even as we've seen some more strident calls for action among climate scientists to deal with climate change, there's not a lot of evidence in our data that the public is more concerned about the issue than they were a few years ago," Tyson said.

To that end, the share of Americans who say they care "a great deal" about climate change has dropped over the past five years (from 44% to 37%). Moreover, the number of those who have participated in climate activism has dipped from 24% to 21% over that same span.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.

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