A recent Pew Center poll done just as An Inconvenient Truth was opening nationally finds, not surprisingly, that Americans don’t care about global warming. Or do they?

41 percent say global warming is a very serious problem, 33 percent see it as somewhat serious, and roughly a quarter (24 percent) think it is either not too serious or not a problem at all.

That puts global warming 19th among 20 issues ranked. However, a very strong partisan pattern emerges here: although it’s dead last among Republicans, it ranks 14th for both Democrats and independents, above such “hot button” issues as government surveillance, flag burning, abortion, the inheritance tax, and gay marriage, and about the same as the budget deficit and immigration.However, there’s still hope: the better informed people are about global warming, the more likely they are to take it seriously. (Perhaps that’s tautological, but I sure hope not.)

But across party lines, those who say human activity such as the burning of fossil fuels has driven global warming rate the issue as far more serious. Fully 71 percent of Democrats who say human activity has caused temperatures to rise rate it as a very serious problem, along with 54 percent of Republicans who hold the same belief … [Overall], fully two-thirds of those who say human activity has made the earth hotter rate it as a very serious problem, compared with just 31 percent who see the earth warming but attribute it to natural patterns in the earth’s environment.

What’s more, those “on our side” believe that we can do something about it:

Fully 80 percent of those who attribute climate change to human activity say the effects can be reduced, compared with just 48 percent of those who say rising temperatures are a natural pattern in the earth’s environment.

The public also strongly disapproves of how Bush is handling global warming, giving him a 26 percent approval rating on the subject — below his 32-33 percent approval rating on immigration, the economy, and the environment as a whole. In fact, the 26 percent approval rating neatly matches his approval rating on energy policy (which could easily be tied to global warming) and the 30 percent of Americans who either don’t believe in global warming or don’t know about it.

So, a certain slice of Americans knows about and cares about global warming. The key is to expand that slice to at least an electoral majority, if not to (nearly) everyone.