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Poll: Fewer people worry about warming

Former Vice President Al Gore's insistence on Monday that global warming was behind a spate of bad weather could fall on some very deaf ears. American's concerns over environmental worries are at the lowest level in two decades, according to a new Gallup poll.

"Many environmental issues are at a 20-year-low concern," the poll found.

It also found that public worries over eight green-related issues — from air pollution to the state of rain forests — have dropped by as much as nine percentage points in the last year alone.

"Americans worry most about drinking-water pollution and least about global warming," said Gallup analyst Jeffrey Jones.

Indeed, the poll found that half of the respondents worry "a great deal" about the safety and purity of their drinking water; 28 percent said they fretted about global warming.

Between the two, 31 percent worry about the extinction of plant and animal species, one-third are concerned about the loss of tropical rain forests, 38 percent are troubled by air pollution and 44 percent fear the pollution of soil and water by toxic waste.

Forty-five percent worry about the maintenance of fresh water for "household needs," while 46 percent are concerned about the pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs.

The decline in concern is "rather dramatic" in some cases, Mr. Jones said, citing 1989 Gallup figures. At that time, 72 percent of Americans worried about river pollution, while 63 percent were troubled by air pollution.

"One major reason Americans may be less worried about environmental problems is that they perceive environmental conditions in the United States to be improving," Mr. Jones said.

The poll found that 46 percent of the respondents now rate the overall quality of the environment in the country as "excellent" or "good," up from 39 percent a year ago. The public's concerns about the economy may have also trumped their environmental worries, the researchers found.

The survey of 1,014 adults was conducted March 4-7.

Mr. Gore, meanwhile, continues to cite the dire predictions of global-warming scientists this week, though the credibility of some have come into serious question in recent months.

"The odds have shifted toward much larger downpours. And we have seen that happen in the Northeast; weve seen it happen in the Northwest — in both of those regions are among those that scientists have predicted for a long time would begin to experience much larger downpours," Mr. Gore said in a conference call Monday.

"Just look at what has been happening for the last three days. The so-called 'skeptics' havent noted it because its not snow. But the downpours and heavy winds are consistent with what the scientists have long warned about," Mr. Gore said.

The persistent message prompted a stormy response from his critics.

"Gore seems to be drowning in a sea of his own global-warming illusions. Nevertheless, he is desperately trying to keep global-warming alarmism alive," said Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, calling Mr. Gore "the world's first potential climate billionaire."

He also compared the former vice president's opinion to the proverbial ostrich-with-its-head-in-the-sand tale.

Some say Mr. Gore's claims are convenient — but canny.

"If theres a drought — its global warming. When theres a hurricane — its global warming. If there are heavy snows or even blizzards — its somehow global warming," said Jeff Poor, an analyst with the conservative Business & Media Institute.

"Gores remarks are consistent with the media view of the issue. Journalists have repeatedly preferred the alarmist view on the climate over any opposition, even when the weather is inconveniently different than predicted," Mr. Poor added.

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