Witnessing ever-increasing extreme weather events, such as droughts, heat waves and floods, will not change climate change sceptics' views on global warming, researchers have discovered.
Just 35% of US citizens believe global warming was the cause of abnormally high temperatures over winter 2012. Earlier this year a Gallup poll also found that two thirds of Americans do not believe climate change will pose a "serious threat" during their lifetimes.
This is despite the NOAA recently announcing 2014 will be the hottest year ever recorded, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warning that mankind will witness increased violent conflict, food shortages and more extreme weather before 2100 as a result of climate change.
However, for people who do not believe in man-made climate change, seeing the effects for themselves will do little to sway their perspective, Michigan State University researchers have found.
Published in the journal Nature Climate Change, Aaron M McCright and colleagues analysed data of more than 1,000 people looking to find out how the warm temperatures from 2012 affected their views on climate change.
While findings showed that people's perceptions of warmer winter temperatures were in line with observed temperatures, climate change sceptics did not adjust their views on why the temperatures were so high.
Instead, findings overwhelmingly showed that politics plays a much larger role, with Republicans generally doubting the existence of global warming and Democrats believing in it.
"Many people already had their minds made up about global warming and this extreme weather was not going to change that," McCright said.
The warm winter of 2012 was part of a series of extreme weather events, including Hurricane Sandy and Typhoon Haiyan – events that many people thought would start changing sceptics' minds on climate change.
California is currently facing one of the most severe droughts on record, with Governor Brown declaring a drought state of emergency at the start of the year. Stanford scientists warned in September that the drought was "very likely" caused by man-made climate change.
"This isn't a projection of 100 years in the future. This is an event that is more extreme than any in the observed record, and our research suggests that global warming is playing a role right now," said climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh.
Overwhelming evidence currently supports the view that climate change caused by man-made emissions is taking place – 97% of climate scientists agree global warming is manmade. However, changing people's perceptions appears to have little to do with science.
McCright said: "There's been a lot of talk among climate scientists, politicians and journalists that warmer winters like this would change people's minds. That the more people are exposed to climate change, the more they'll be convinced. This study suggests this is not the case."