Public’s Collective ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ on Climate Change

President Obama and the leaders of nearly 200 countries are meeting in Paris to discuss an agreement on climate change. Despite the president’s focus on climate policy, three recent polls show the public isn’t especially concerned about climate change and that any concern they do have is waning.

Recent polls by GlobeScan, Langer Research Associates, and Sky Data (the survey arm of Sky News) all show that over the past several years public concern about global warming and public support for government action on climate change has decreased. Despite a lack of public support, the Obama administration is in Paris trying to strike a deal that will raise energy costs on the poor and middle class while denying affordable energy to developing countries. These polls come as Democratic presidential candidates and Secretary of State John Kerry claim climate change is a bigger national security threat than ISIS, while the public sees terrorism and the economy as by far the most important issues facing the country.

Climate Change? Meh.

One poll, published by the research group GlobeScan, found that less than half respondents view climate change as a “very serious” issue, despite strong rhetoric from world leaders to the contrary. As the following chart shows, the GlobeScan poll, which surveyed 1,000 people in 20 different countries, found that in most countries people want their world leaders to play less of a “leadership role” in Paris than they did during the Copenhagen climate summit of 2009.

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Although sizeable majorities of people wanted their elected leaders to take a leadership role at the 2009 summit, the Copenhagen summit is widely regarded as a failure. Now, world leaders are once again attempting to strike a climate deal with much less public support than they had six years ago.

Similar polls by Langer Research Associates (LRA) and Sky Data looked at public support in the U.S. and U.K., respectively, and drew similar conclusions. Public support for climate change policy has declined over the past few years, and fewer people believe the government should be doing more to address climate change.

According to the Langer poll, which was produced for ABC News and the Washington Post, less than half of those surveyed think the government should be doing more to address climate change. By contrast, under the Bush administration, the poll revealed that a high of 70 percent of respondents thought the government should be more actively addressing climate change.


Source: Langer Research Associates

In the U.K., the public is less worried about climate change and doesn’t support policies that raise energy prices. The Sky Data poll shows that one in five British citizens believes that global warming is caused by natural processes rather than human activity, a jump from just one in fourteen people two years ago.

The public also opposes government policies that raise energy prices to address climate change. According to the Sky Data poll, 54 percent of Brits oppose taxes on oil and electricity that would raise utility bills, and only one-third “would back extra taxes on products with a high carbon footprint.”

In other words, people don’t want to pay more taxes to address an issue they aren’t really concerned about.


At a time when the Obama administration is pushing an aggressive climate agenda in Paris, public concerns about the economy and terrorism far outpace anxieties about climate change. Rather than forcing more costly climate policies on the public, world leaders should focus their attention on the economic and national security issues that matter most to people.

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