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Editorial: Pols lag Americans on climate change

FILE - In this Oct. 30 2012 file phoprovided by Metropolitan TransportatiAuthority South Ferry subway statiNew York City is filled

FILE - In this Oct. 30 2012 file photo provided by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the South Ferry subway station in New York City is filled with seawater and debris from Superstorm Sandy. Nearly 4 out of 5 Americans now think temperatures are rising and that global warming will be a serious problem for the United States if nothing is done about it, a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds. Belief and worry about climate change are inching up among Americans in general, but concern is growing faster among people who don't often trust scientists on the environment. In follow-up interviews, some of those doubters said they believe their own eyes as they've watched thermometers rise, New York City subway tunnels flood, polar ice melt and Midwestern farm fields dry up. (AP Photo/ Metropolitan Transportation Authority, File)

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Updated: January 21, 2013 3:57PM

Call it change more Americans are starting to believe in.

A recent Associated Press-GfK poll found that a growing majority of Americans not only think global warming is occurring, but also that it will become a serious problem and that the U.S. government should do something about it.

If this fall’s elections were any indication, average Americans are moving ahead of the politicians on this issue. Serious debate on climate change was a lot less noticeable than the melting polar icecaps, Superstorm Sandy and Midwest drought were.

An interesting sidelight: the poll found that people who don’t trust scientists on the environment believe temperatures are rising. Overall, the poll found four out of every five Americans said climate change will be a serious problem for the United States if nothing is done about it. But the biggest increase in that number since earlier polls is among people who don’t trust scientists. Sixty-one percent of them say temperatures have been rising over the past 100 years compared with only 47 percent in 2009.

“They don’t believe what the scientists say, they believe what the thermometers say,” said Jon Krosnick, a Stanford University social psychologist and pollster who consulted on the poll. “Events are helping these people see what scientists thought they had been seeing all along.”

An array of scientists said last summer’s wild weather is a glimpse of what global warming looks like, though it’s too early to definitively peg global warming as the cause.

If even the environmental cynics are taking climate change seriously, maybe it’s time for more politicians to do the same.

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