(Originally published on Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog)

News flash: Americans are confused about global warming. Of course, that's not exactly earth-shattering news, considering the bevy of polling data released during the past year, much of which has shown declining majority support for the view that global warming is primarily caused by human activities — a view held by the vast majority of climate scientists.

Now a new poll released by Yale University late last week found that 52 of Americans would fail a climate change test, and that only 50 percent of those who think global warming is happening think it is caused mostly by human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels like oil and coal.

The poll results reveal a society that has not yet fully engaged with the climate change issue, with 48 percent of respondents saying they have thought about global warming "a little" or "not at all." Perhaps most importantly, from my perspective at least, the poll found that only 11 to 14 percent of Americans say they are "very well informed" about how the climate system works, the different causes and consequences of global warming, and the ways global warming can be reduced (though around 50 percent did say they were "fairly well informed" on these aspects). About 75 percent would like more information before they make up their mind on global warming, with most of those saying the Internet would be the first place they would go to learn more.

Some may see these results as cause for despair -- and indeed there are plenty of reasons for scientists, journalists and climate policy advocates to be concerned. For example, the survey of 2,030 American adults found that a full 21 percent of respondents believe the greenhouse effect refers to the ozone layer, rather than to gases in the atmosphere that trap heat, such as carbon dioxide.