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How Americans Feel About Climate Change And Disasters That Affect The U.S.


Massive wildfires on the West Coast, a record number of hurricanes making landfall in the U.S., scorching heat waves and severe flooding around the country. Climate change is here and so is anxiety about it.


The science is clear. Global warming is accelerating, fueled by human greenhouse gas emissions. And that warming is making extreme weather worse.

SHAPIRO: With so much of the U.S. affected by these disasters, we asked people around the country to tell us how they are feeling in this moment and about the future.


ROGER GRANT: I'm Roger Grant. I'm 69 years old. I'm a retired middle school science teacher.

ELLIOT FARISH: Hi. My name is Elliot Farish (ph). I am 13 years old, and I am in eighth grade. I live in Chapel Hill, N.C.

GRANT: When I was a teacher in the Orange County school system in Orlando, Fla., a lot of what I taught them were things related to climate change, which is kind of a long time interest of mine.

ELLIOT: I think climate change is a rapidly approaching threat and is going to hit us from behind.

LANISHA COLLINS: So my name is Lanisha Collins (ph). I'm 34 years old. I live right now in Portland, Ore.

JASON GRIMM: My name is Jason Grimm. I'm 35 years old. I live in Williamsburg, Iowa, and I am a farmer.

COLLINS: I would hope that things happening and landing in all of our backyards all the time would create, like, that sense of urgency. But, I mean, there's still people saying that climate change is, like, not even a real thing.

GRIMM: I mean, I was expecting it to happen, but probably not as severe.

GRANT: The number and strength of hurricanes that we've had - it's just crazy.

GRIMM: Last year, it rained pretty much until the end of June almost, and thus made it too late to get a crop planted. And we had to find other income sources.


ALEXIA BURQUEZ: My name's Alexia Burquez (ph). I'm 23 years old. I'm from Compton, Calif. It's already - what? - October, and we've had how many heat waves? It's just been difficult being home. It's hot.

COLLINS: And I mean, this year's been very long, but, like, Australia happened in this year.

GRANT: You go back and you look at the fires that ravaged Australia, the Amazon and the fires burning there. You look at the Western United States.

COLLINS: Those fires were very close to me. They were too close to me. I live in a city.

BURQUEZ: With the air quality being so bad, I mean, we're in the middle of a pandemic. The least, like, my family does is we go for a walk or a bike ride, and we can't even do that.

COLLINS: It's like, whoa, what's happening? And it's, like, climate change. This is the unraveling of everything.

GRANT: So for those of us that pay attention - and I hope my students are paying attention to this - it's just telling you hey, the earth's systems are sick.


GRIMM: The things that I worry most about is my kids. So, yeah, I definitely have sleepless nights.

BURQUEZ: It's a little bit nerve-racking.

COLLINS: It's terrifying.

ELLIOT: Yeah, it definitely just feels like it's not really in my control.

COLLINS: Me and my husband are actually about to try for a child. But prior to even knowing him, why I was like, I'm not having kids, was because the world that I'm bringing them into is messed up.

ELLIOT: I'm 13 years old, so - but I think - I think I won't be having kids just for, you know, it's like a - it's a scary world to raise people. And I don't think I would have kids.

BURQUEZ: Like, do I really want kids? Do I want to bring them into this wild, wild world?

COLLINS: You know, are the reasons why I'm having a baby selfish?

BURQUEZ: If you can't go outside because of the air quality and rising temperatures, is that even living, you know? I don't know.

COLLINS: And just - because I'm Black, and bringing a Black child into this world just can be scary enough, especially in the time that we're in. And so thinking about that as well. You know, am I going to have a little Black boy? And, like, what is his experience going to be outside of climate change?


GRANT: I do tend to, you know, sometimes come off as we're up the creek without a paddle kind of thing. But I think for me, it's more being realistic about where we are.

GRIMM: Those of us that are concerned about the effects of climate change - and we're the minority - but I would say across Iowa, the group is growing.

GRANT: If we're realistic about it, then we can start to do those things and say hey, yeah, we can deal with this.


COLLINS: You got to recycle the bottle because it matters.

GRIMM: A longer rotation pattern. So not raising corn after corn after corn.

GRANT: If by putting solar panels on your house, if buying an electric car, then by all means, if you can afford to do those things, go do those things.

BURQUEZ: Neighborhoods like Compton or lower-income neighborhoods don't have that privilege because, I mean, us working class, we're so preoccupied with survival mode.

GRANT: But we also have to look at how are we going to live with the changes that'll take place.

GRIMM: We need to be willing to change and help our neighbors.

COLLINS: I have hope, but I'm also very conscious and concerned that people do not know how to work together.

ELLIOT: Young people, we can't vote yet. But I think we are the generation that is most aware of this, I think. I mean, I'm pretty sure that we can fix this.

CHANG: That was Elliot Farish, Lanisha Collins, Alexia Burquez, Jason Grimm and Roger Grant. This piece was produced by Jonaki Mehta and Kat Lonsdorf. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jonaki Mehta is a producer for All Things Considered. Before ATC, she worked at Neon Hum Media where she produced a documentary series and talk show. Prior to that, Mehta was a producer at Member station KPCC and director/associate producer at Marketplace Morning Report, where she helped shape the morning's business news.