A new study by Yale University makes seriously depressing reading for those who have been trying to educate the American public about the dangers of climate change.

The study finds that less than two thirds of American adults (63%) believe climate change is occurring, but many do not understand why.

Only half understand that climate change is mainly caused by human activity.

And only 10% say they are “very well informed” on the issue.

The study – “Americans Knowledge of Climate Change” study – found significant misconceptions, including that climate change it is not occurring, it is not man-made, that it is caused by the hole in the ozone layer, toxic waste, aerosol spray, or even acid rain

According to the survey, 57% know that the greenhouse effect refers to heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere and 45% understand that carbon dioxide traps heat from the planet’s surface.

But only 25% are aware of coral bleaching or ocean acidification.

Worrying for those who are campaigning for a transition to clean energy, the survey finds that: “Many Americans do understand that emissions from cars and trucks and the burning of fossil fuels contribute to global warming, and that a transition to renewable energy sources is an important solution.”

The study suggests that if this was an exam, only 8% understands the issue enough to earn an A or B grade and 40 percent would receive a C or D.

Over half would fail.

And when it comes to Republican hopefuls in the Senate nearly all would fail.

Only one of the Republicans running for the Senate — including the 20 or so with a serious chance of winning — accept the scientific consensus that humans are largely responsible for climate change.

According to the NYT, the Republicans “are re-running the strategy of denial” perfected by  Former Vice President Dick Cheney, “repudiating years of peer-reviewed findings about global warming and creating an alternative reality in which climate change is a hoax or conspiracy.”

The paper argues that “A few may genuinely believe global warming is a left-wing plot. Others may be singing the tune of corporate benefactors. And many Republicans have seized on the cap-and-trade climate bill as another way to paint Democrats as out-of-control taxers.

So where as a decade ago “Republicans could be counted on to join bipartisan solutions to environmental problems, now they’ve disappeared in a fog of disinformation, an entire political party parroting the Cheney line.”

And by the time the fog finally clears, it will be far too late…